People often see him play basketball on the playground at the weekend.

Can I use playing instead?

  • Indeed you can, and in most contexts you should use playing here. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 4 '14 at 14:41
  • @FumbleFingers What's the different of using play or playing in this context? – Jaugar Chang Sep 4 '14 at 14:43
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    Both "play" and "playing" is correct here. People often see him (who is) playing basketball on the playground at the weekend. People often see him (who) play basketball on the playground at the weekend. So essentially both carry the same meaning. – Man_From_India Sep 4 '14 at 14:50
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    @Jaugar: In your exact context there's not really any significant difference, but personally I'd slightly prefer infinitive play if it was an organised, regular activity, and continuous playing if it was something more impromptu, irregular. Compare to "We often see him drinking in our local pub", where the infinitive would almost never be used. The infinitive emphasises that you saw the activity, rather than the person [performing that activity]. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 7 '14 at 21:26

We can use either the infinitive without to or the -ing form after the object of verbs such as hear, see, notice, watch. The infinitive without to often emphasises the whole action or event which someone hears or sees. The -ing form usually emphasises an action or event which is in progress or not yet completed.

  • He saw her drive off with a young man in the passenger seat. (The speaker observed the whole event.)
  • Maria heard him coming up the stairs towards her room, and felt scared. (The action was in progress, happening, but not completed.)

(from English Grammar Today)

Therefore, both forms are correct and have the same meaning. They might suggest different meanings when using them in past tense however.

Another thing:

After can or could with one of these verbs, we always use the -ing form, not the infinitive.

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    So you mean "I can hear you singing" is correct and "I can hear you sing" is wrong? – Man_From_India Sep 4 '14 at 15:20
  • Thanks you guys! Now I can understand why my teacher suggested us using "play". In her point of view, people observed the fact of playing basketball. – Jaugar Chang Sep 4 '14 at 15:34

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