0

I have a question regarding the verb pattern :

[ Verb (of perception) + objective + bare infinitive / gerund ]

Why in some cases we use a bare infinitive :

  • He heard the door open and bank shot in the other room.
  • Do you like seeing people compete on reality shows? if so, which ones?

And sometimes we use gerund:

  • When we reached the station we could hear the train arriving.
  • On reality shows, you often see people behaving badly. Do you think shows like that are a bad influence on society?
1
  • Both possible ....
    – Sam
    Sep 26, 2022 at 19:23

2 Answers 2

2

First of all, a point of terminology. The forms ending in "-ing"in your question are not gerunds. They are present participles. A gerund is a word derived from a verb, that functions as a noun, or in some cases as an adjective. A present participle is an actual verb form. The confusion is that in most verbs, they have the same spelling, and can only be distinguished by their usage.

Secondly, in most of the cases you list, either an -ing form or a present-tense form may be used, with only a slight change of meaning. Consider ther following pairs:

  • (1A) He heard the door open.
  • (1B) He heard the door opening.
  • (2A) Do you like seeing people compete on reality shows?
  • (2B) Do you like seeing people competing on reality shows?
  • (3A) we could hear the train arrive.
  • (3A) we could hear the train arriving.
  • (4A) On reality shows, you often see people behave badly.
  • (4B) On reality shows, you often see people behaving badly.

In each case, the B form emphasizes the event, while the A member emphasizes the action that takes place. But in each pair, the two sentences are both grammatically valid and have very similar meanings.

The question implies that in each case only one form or the other is correct, or at least that one form is much more widely used than the other in each case, and asks why this is. Well both are correct. It may well be that one form is more commonly used. But usage frequencies follow changes in style and fashion, and are not generally subject to rules.


In addition somewhat similar pairs with no verb of perception involved. For example:

  • (6A) The blacksmith had started to forge a sword when I entered the workshop.
  • (6B) The blacksmith had started forging a sword when I entered the workshop.

Note that this is a somewhat different form from cases 1-5, and from the examples in the question. Depending on the verb and the construction, in some cases a participle form will be correct, and in some cases it will not. In some cases a non-participle form will be correct. In some either will be correct. My point is that often a sentence using a participle form can be rephrased to use a non-participle form with only minor change of meaning. But not in all cases.

4
  • +1 But the comparison of (6A) and (6B) is unrelated. Further, usually only one form or the other is correct, and when both are correct, there's often a significant difference in meaning between the two forms. I recommend removing that portion of your otherwise strong answer
    – gotube
    Sep 26, 2022 at 22:16
  • @gotube Are you talking about only forms like 6A/6B? In any case would you care to provide an example or two where only one form is correct, or where the meaning is significantly changed? None come to my mind. Sep 26, 2022 at 23:04
  • Yes, I'm only talking about 6A/6B. Example where only one form is correct: "I enjoy riding to work." This form is incorrect: "I enjoy to ride to work." Example where forms have different meanings: "I tried opening the door to let some air in" is different from "I tried to open the door to let some air in." The OP is asking about base form vs. "-ing" form, but 6A/6B are about "to" + base form vs. "-ing" form.
    – gotube
    Sep 27, 2022 at 0:45
  • @gotube. Yes "I enjoy to ride to work" is wrong, I will clarify the section. Sep 27, 2022 at 3:05
0

You can use either. These are all valid (except I don't know what "bank shot" means):

He heard the door open and bank shot in the other room.

He heard the door opening and bank shot in the other room.

Do you like seeing people compete on reality shows? if so, which ones?

Do you like seeing people competing on reality shows? if so, which ones?

When we reached the station, we could hear the train arriving.

When we reached the station, we could hear the train arrive.

On reality shows, you often see people behaving badly. Do you think shows like that are a bad influence on society?

On reality shows, you often see people behave badly. Do you think shows like that are a bad influence on society?

1
  • "Bank shot" usually refers to a shot in pool or billiards in which a ball is deflected off a side of the table. It can also be used metaphorically of an indirect approach to a task. It doesn't seem to fit in the example here, unless somrone was playing pool in the other room. Sep 26, 2022 at 20:27

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .