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I used to think that it is always a Subject + verb in a relevant tense + object + verb-ing construction, such as in the examples:

  • I can hear you speaking
  • I have seen you drinking
  • John hates me crying

But recently I heard that some people say these phrases like this:

  • I can hear you speak
  • I have seen you drank
  • John hates me cry

My question is: which is correct and if both types are, what's the difference?

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  • All of them are valid except for "John hates me cry", which is not grammatical and would not be said by a native speaker. Are you sure you heard this correctly?
    – stangdon
    Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 20:32
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    "I have seen you drank" is not parallel to your other examples which have present simple "speak" and "cry". This makes comparison impossible. Did you mean "drink"?
    – gotube
    Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 20:35
  • Also, your first two sentences have verbs of perception, which have special grammar structures that other verbs, like "hate" do not have, so again, a single answer to your question is impossible based on your example sentences.
    – gotube
    Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 20:36
  • Following up on gotube: You can see someone drink or drunk but you can't see them drank. Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 21:04
  • I missed the drank one earlier! I'm reminded of the (probably apocryphal) story about a liquor company that once used the slogan, "We're still drank the way we were a hundred years ago"; people pointed out that this was grammatically incorrect, but it was also pointed out that the company probably didn't want to say "We're still drunk the way we were a hundred years ago"!
    – stangdon
    Commented Oct 28, 2022 at 16:33

2 Answers 2

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I am going out on a limb, here, so take this answer more as a suggestion than a certain, correct, answer.

There is no rule. It's one of those things that one comes up against when learning languages: you ask "what's the rule", and the teacher says: "there isn't one, you have to learn every case". This is very noticeable with prepositions.

To explain why there does not appear to be a rule, consider the case:

John makes me cry.

'makes' is not a verb of perception, and yet the above is a natural way to make that statement.

You cannot say: "John makes me to cry", or "John makes me crying".

Now replace 'makes' with another verb that fulfils exactly the same function - induces, forces, cajoles. (They do not have precisely the same meaning but their function is the same.)

You cannot say: John forces me cry / John induces me cry / John cajoles me cry.

You can say: John forces me to cry, etc. But not : John forces me crying.

Now, take the case of 'hates'

Correct: John hates me to cry / John hates me crying

Incorrect John hates me cry.

All of these things come quite naturally to a native English speaker, so it's hard to believe that if there is a rule, no one can work it out.

Hence the assertion: There is no rule.

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We can use the infinitive without to or the -ing form with see, hear, notice etc.

Correct: I can hear you speaking or I can hear you speak.

Correct: I have seen you drinking or I have seen you drink (NOT drank)

I saw him cross the road. (He crossed the road and I saw this)

I saw him cross the road.(from beginning to end)

I saw him crossing the road. (He was crossing the road and I saw this)

I saw him crossing the road. (in the middle of crossing)

Incorrect: John hates me cry

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