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I heard a sentence today which was "I could record him saying ... (something) . "

Is "record" also a verb of perception ?

  • Double check the sentence. In English we use the word "recall" to refer to remembering something we see or hear. "I can recall him saying that to me," for example. – xizdaqrian Feb 20 at 16:09
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    The subject recorded his talking with a recording device. – Talha Özden Feb 20 at 16:12
  • Thanks for clarifying. The above sentence, then, sounds like it indicates ability or permission. I have the ability to record him saying, or, I have permission to record him saying. To "record" generally means to write, draw, or store on electronic media, the description of an event. – xizdaqrian Feb 20 at 16:52
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Verbs of perception can usually take both a bare infinitive or a participle as a complement.

I saw him eating fish

I saw him eat fish

Sometimes, there's a distinction in meaning between the two. Sometimes not.

Further, verbs of perception are about how a person1 perceives things. See and hear, watch, even remember and imagine.

You cannot use record with a past participle or a bare infinitive. It does not relate to perception. A recording device is perceiving nothing, but even if it were the act of recording is the act of producing the record. So, yes, you can say

I could record him saying hello

In that sentence, it's not a verb of perception, it's just a regular subject-verb-object - plus an additional phrase that gives extra description. The phrase "saying hello" is giving extra information, and might be interpreted as extra description of the object (him) or extra description of how you will record him. If you interpret it as the latter, it's a gerund phrase, while if you interpret it as the former, it's a participle phrase.

I think it's probably a participle phrase. Here's a site that tries to explain the difference. If we take it at face value, this must be a participle phrase, as it is not acting as a noun; I generally advise people to take any "never" or "always" descriptions of English with a pinch of salt, but I think it's right in this case.

A participle phrase can be used where it describes what the object is doing during the verb's action. It is mostly limited semantically - if it makes sense, it's probably okay. It can't be used where an infinitive is expected, such as with certain catenative verbs like to expect or to ask. But this question isn't a good opportunity to explain all about catenative verbs.


1: or any other agent capable of perception, or any object which is readily anthropomorphised.

  • Thanks, when am I not allowed to use gerund phrases (like "him saying hello") as a object of a verb ? For example, I can't say this sentence : "I am expecting him applying for the job" but I can say this one : "I am expecting him to apply for the job." – Talha Özden Feb 20 at 20:03
  • In the example I gave, the gerund phrase isn't the object. Him is the object. The gerund phrase is just "saying hello". However, I will take your question to be about when you can and cannot use a gerund phrase as an adverbial like that. Well, it's complicated by the fact that some see it as a gerund phrase and some a participle phrase, because there's a bit of overlap in those concepts (like the progressive participle being identical to the gerund). – SamBC Feb 20 at 20:07
  • Actually, this is probably a participle phrase... I'll edit to explain more and see if that helps you. – SamBC Feb 20 at 20:09
  • Edited. Anyway, the reason you can't use it with expect is that expect is a catenative verb (or can be used as such) that always takes a to-infinitive. – SamBC Feb 20 at 20:21
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You don't have to be present to record someone talking. You only have to be present to listen to (or hear) the recording you made. Therefore, record is not a verb of perception.

Even if you are present, your listening or hearing are independent of the act of recording. You may not even be aware whether the instrument you're using is in fact recording. It might be broken, or adjusted improperly, or even not turned on. You would only know of a problem when you attempted to listen to the recording.

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