It has been only few years I have been watching English movies. Recently I heard a sentence saying "I watched them go".

I have been repeating the scene, and checked through subtitles whether I heard it correctly or not. Is the phrase a correct use of grammar, or is there any incoherency in the meaning?

In this case, can we also say things like these?

I saw him speak.
We saw him go.


  • 2
    All fine. No issue. What is your concern? – Aaron K Apr 18 '14 at 3:01
  • what i know is, we can say i watched they are going, i watched when they go or maybe even i watched them to go etc. but i did not see this way ever. – Umit Kaya Apr 18 '14 at 3:09
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    None of the sentences in your comment are grammatical. You can't say any of those things that way in English. Instead, it would be "I watched them going", "I watched when they went", "I watched them go", respectively. – Aaron K Apr 18 '14 at 3:17
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    A watched NP VP and A saw NP VP are both grammatical constructions, as are A watched NP V-ing and A saw NP VP-ing. These are sense verbs, and sense verbs have special grammar. – John Lawler Apr 18 '14 at 4:06
  • I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. – ЯegDwight Apr 18 '14 at 15:05

In spoken English (or dialogue in a book, movie, etc.), "I watched him go" implies that I watched him for some or all of the duration of him 'going' (preparing to leave, exiting through the door, maybe driving off down the road until he is no longer visible). "I saw him go", on the other hand, implies that I had caught a glance of him leaving.

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  • +1 And this difference between watched and saw applies to most use cases, not just when used with the verb go. – IQAndreas Apr 18 '14 at 4:21

A bare infinitive is used after the verbs: hear, listen to, notice, see ,watch and feel to describe a complete action, something that somebody saw, heard, etc. from beginning to end.eg. I listened to Mary sing a song. ( I listened to the song from beginning to end.) So, when he says "I watched them go.", it means that he watched the whole action, until he could not see them anymore. The opposite happens if a gerund is used after these verbs. Then it describes an incomplete action,that is to say that somebody saw, heard, etc. only a part of the action.

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