What is the difference in meaning between the following sentences?

  1. I heard Mary sing a good song.
  2. I heard Mary sang a good song.
  • 2
    (1) You heard the song yourself. (2) Someone else told you about it. (Heard that could be used to make the meaning clearer.) Jan 24 '20 at 9:53
  • To whoever can answer: shouldn't it be "sings" or singing" in the first sentence? I would favor "singing", but "sings" makes sense too, with different meaning. Plain "sing" sounds incorrect to me, at least until I understand the sentence structure better.
    – virolino
    Jan 24 '20 at 11:57

The first has the base form sing, so the clause Mary sing a good song is an infinitive clause. This means that hear must have its primary meaning of "physically hear the sound of something happening". Singing would also be possible there, with the same meaning.

The second has an inflected (finite) verb form, so the clause Mary sang a good song cannot be an infinitive clause, and must be a "that" clause with "that" omitted. The meaning of hear that is different: it means "come to know, by hearing or reading something that somebody said or wrote".

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