In my book there is the text:

He leaped to his feet and faced the tribesman, who now pointed his spear at Chad. He then hefted up the heavy battery and held it in front of him, poles facing the warrior. When he saw the man coil, as if ready to thrust the spear, Chad rushed him and pressed the battery poles against his bare stomach.

Is there any mistake in text in bold? I can guess it have to be "When he saw the man is coiling" or I can guess "man" is adjective, so "the man coil" must mean some sort of position of body (with all above why not "the coiled man").


1 Answer 1


The sentence is correct. Your first suggestion is correct. Man is the subject of coil, not a adjective modifying coil. I imagine he is preparing his body to throw the spear, perhaps by twisting himself at the waist or—as has been suggested—tensing his muscles. Even as a novelist, I find the image hard to imagine.

As a matter of grammar, the following sentences work the same way:

He saw the man jump.
He saw the man kill an insect.

Notice that in all three cases, the action can be completed in a short amount of time. This is what the simple past indicates in this context: an action begun and completed. So the "he" character saw the man as he began to coil, during the coil, and as he completed the coil.

This sentence is similar, but a little different:

I watched a man repair his car.

It can only mean that I watched the man during the entire process. I invested some time in this observation.

We would change aspect to indicate that I saw part of a process.

I saw my friend reading a book.

Reading is generally a process that takes a while. We almost never see someone begin to read a book, continue watching throughout the entire book, and then see them complete the book. It could take 20-30 hours in many cases.

But perhaps I watched my 3-year-old daughter do so with a slender children's book. Then the following use of the simple past would make sense:

I watched my daughter read a book.

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