1) I saw him walk last night.

How is the phrase ‘him walk last night’ functioning in the sentence? Why did we use bare infinitive as the object of the verb in the above sentence? Is him the subject of the phrase?


Verbs of the senses such as "see" and "hear" can take an infinitive or gerund structure after them with a difference in meaning. When we have witnessed a complete action we use the infinitive. e.g. "I heard him sing in the concert last night." (meaning I saw the whole song or the whole performance) "I heard him singing in the shower as I walked past."(meaning I heard part of the action I didn't stay for him to finish his song) Similarly: "I saw him get on the bus." (complete action:infinitive) "I saw him crossing the road" (I turned my gaze before he completed the action:gerund) The subject of the phrase "him walk last night" is "him" as an object pronoun can be the subject of the infinitive . Thank you.

  • Can we say that, the clause, ‘I saw him get on the bus, as the reduced clause of this clause, ‘I saw when he got on the bus.’ – Sarosh Nov 1 '18 at 9:59
  • @Sarosh: No you cannot say that. when he got on the bus is a temporal adjunct and refers to the time and occasion of you seeing him, whereas I saw him get on the bus refers to the fact that you saw him getting on the bus. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 1 '18 at 18:12
  • So can we say the sentence, ‘I saw him get on the bus’, can be interpreted as I saw that he got on the bus, or I saw that he was getting on the bus? – Sarosh Nov 1 '18 at 19:38
  • Not really. "I saw him get on the bus." means that one saw the action of his getting on the bus. "I saw that he got on the bus" would normally mean 'I made sure that he got on the bus. In any case, "I saw that he got on the bus" is a standard construction and need not be regarded as a shortening of anything. – David Siegel Jun 3 '19 at 17:02

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