Are these phrases equal to each other in their meanings?:

  1. I have seen him do it (he finished doing smth)
  2. I saw him do it (he also finished doing smth as in the first sentence)

2 Answers 2


No, they're not equal in meaning, but the difference is in how the speaker is choosing to relate to the events, not necessarily in an objective difference in the events described.

I have seen him do it means that the speaker is choosing to treat seeing him do it as having some relevance to the present. Some examples of what that might mean are:

  • it has only just happened,

  • the speaker believes that he has done it more than once, and still continues to do it

  • the circumstances in which he might do it are still in force, so it is possible the speaker could see him do it again

I saw him do it speaks about it as a completed action, with no present relevance. That doesn't exclude the possibilities above, but it more likely means that the speaker does not expect to see him do it again - perhaps he has gone away, or has used up some resource, or has been warned about doing it again.

Note that the choice does not say anything about whether "it" (whatever it was that "he" did) has present relevance. So for example, I find

I saw him break it: look, here are the pieces

more natural than "I've seen him break it: look, here are the pieces". The breaking then has present relevance ("He has broken it!"), but the seeing is a completed action.



I have seen him do it.

Using a perfect tense indicates activity over some period of time. This sentence implies having seen him do it at various times in the past.

I saw him do it .

Using simple tense indicates an action at a single point in time. So he was seen doing it one time in the past. If more than once, it would need to imply that specific instances were known.

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