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I'm just curious to know what kind of verb that is. I know that 'made' is a causative verb in the following sentence:

I made him do X

But I don't think 'saw' is causative in the following sentence as it doesn't cause 'him' (is it the subject?) to do anything:

I saw him do X

I couldn't find anything on Google. Can anyone give some insight?

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  • As you might know, I don't know grammar, but I'm just curious.
    – Void
    Jan 4, 2021 at 3:48
  • Action verb, no? The transitive kind, I think.
    – AIQ
    Jan 4, 2021 at 5:02
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    It is a verb of perception. Other verbs in the same class are "feel", "hear", and "taste".
    – user178049
    Jan 4, 2021 at 5:04
  • @Astralbee: Sure. A dictionary also says that 'make' is transitive, but here it's another kind of categorisation and is "causative" which I don't think can be answered by a dictionary. Also, as user178049 said in a comment, it's a "verb of perception" which I didn't find in any dictionary. So I don't think it can be answered by a dictionary. Which dictionary says it's "a verb of perception"? Can you provide a link?
    – Void
    Jan 4, 2021 at 8:43

2 Answers 2

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I made him do it.
You saw him do it.

It isn't quite natural to see the verb to see as a causative verb in its sentence above. It's technically possible, maybe, at a stretch -- the verb does have a causative sense among the several senses that it carries. However, the grammar of that sense is usually different. If something needs to get done and I'm not going to handle it personally, I might ask you to see to it or see that it gets done. That's different than this example. It's more natural to take this example literally, using your eyes rather than your supervisory and managerial skills.

Sure, the two sentences above have different semantics. This "made" is causative and this "saw" is perceptive. I'm guessing that you're more interested in the similarity than the difference. The two sentences do use the same grammar.

Subject, verb, direct object, object complement -- both sentences are complexly transitive. This is the SVOC sentence pattern.

The general pattern isn't limited to causation and perception. I want you to understand that, because

I want you to understand that.

is also SVOC.

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A causative verb is used to indicate that one person causes another person to do something for the first person. "Saw" (the past tense of to see) is not a causative verb as it cannot be used to cause someone else do something.

The causative verbs are: let, make, have, and get.

The verb to see is usually a transitive verb - one which must have an object. For example, in "I saw him", 'him' is the object. It can sometimes be an intransitive verb when referring to the ability of sight, for example, "I can see".

'See' also falls into the sub-category of "perception verbs" (to see, to hear, to feel, to smell, to taste). These are verbs of involuntary perception, so quite opposite to 'causitive'. For example, you might deliberately 'look' at something, but you cannot help but 'see' what is in front of your eyes.

Causative sentences and transitive sentences may be very similar, for example:

  • Have the child wake up (causative)
  • Wake the child up (transitive)

In both examples, the first person is asking someone else to wake a child. In the first example, the causative verb 'have' is used and the verb 'wake' has no object; in the second example the verb 'wake' has an object - the child.

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