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Can the verb "watch" be used with that-clause when it has the meaning 'to look at'?

Are the following statements correct?

We watched the government and business community cope with the ongoing crisis.

We watched that the government and business community cope with the ongoing crisis.

  • It can, but bear in mind that your watching example is not a sentence, but a subordinate non-finite clause that would normally be part of a sentence. – BillJ Sep 25 '17 at 7:30
  • @BillJ I've just edited the question. Can you elaborate? – RAV Sep 25 '17 at 7:35
  • Interesting. I know that the answer is "no", but I couldn't explain why. – Mr Lister Sep 25 '17 at 7:45
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    Your revision is not acceptable, at least not where "watch" means "look at". "Watch" + that clauses occur readily in examples like "You watch that you don't get glue on your fingers" where "watch" has the sense of "be careful". – BillJ Sep 25 '17 at 7:59
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    "Watch" is transitive in the first example with "the government ..." as direct object. All perfectly normal. But I don't think "watch" with the sense "look at" licenses (permits) a content clause complement. It could, however, be used with the sense "ensure", though some may consider that similar to the "be careful" sense. – BillJ Sep 25 '17 at 8:16
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According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the verb watch has two meanings.

In your original sentence, the meaning is LOOK AT, with the form + object + infinitive-without-to: the object is the government and business community and the infitive-without-to is cope.

The LOOK AT meaning also supports the -ing verb form or a question word:

We watched the government and business community coping with the ongoing crisis.
We watched how the government and business community copes with the ongoing crisis.

The LOOK AT meaning of watch does not support a that-clause: the BE CAREFUL meaning does, so you can say something like this:

Watch that you don't get paint on the carpet.

Note that, when you use a that-clause, the verb is not an infinitive: it must take the appropriate verb tense for the clause, for example simple present. Here's how it works with hope, which can use a that-clause:

I hope that the government and business community copes with the ongoing crisis.

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No.  "To watch" means something more specific than "to look at".  It means to observe over a period of time, to observe a process.  You can look at a book as easily as you can look at a movie, but you cannot watch a book in the same sense that you can watch a movie. 
 

We watched the government and business community cope with the ongoing crisis.

This is a perfectly ordinary sentence.  We can divide its one clause into four constituents: a subject, a finite verb, a direct object and an object complement.  This sense of the verb "to watch" does license bare infinitive object complements, and the phrase "[to] cope with the ongoing crisis" is a suitable infinitive phrase.  As modified by its complement, this direct object represents a process with a duration.  It makes sense as the object of the verb "watched". 
 

We watched that the government and business community cope with the ongoing crisis.

There is something wrong with this sentence.  It has a perfectly ordinary (and somewhat more complicated) structure, but it doesn't quite make sense.  At least, it doesn't make the kind of sense that you intend. 

The intended sense of the verb "to watch" does not require an object complement.  It does require a direct object.  We have a direct object in the subordinate clause "that the government and business community cope with the ongoing crisis".  In this case, "cope" must be finite.  The "that" introduces a complete clause and allows that clause to represent a fact
 

And there's the problem.  A fact, like a book, isn't a process -- even when the fact is that a process occurs.  The fact itself lacks an inherent duration.  It simply exists.  We cannot watch a fact in the same sense that we can watch a movie. 

For this sentence to make sense, we would need to find some sense of the verb "to watch" that licenses a different semantic role.  These senses can be found, such as the religious sense of to hold vigil or to pray throughout the night which can license a purpose rather than a process. 

Alternately, we can replace "watched" with a verb that licenses a more appropriate semantic role, one that does not require an inherent duration.  Verbs like "saw", "observed" and "noticed" have fewer semantic restrictions regarding their direct objects.

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