a. I saw the window break.
b. I saw the window broken.
c. I saw the window breaking.
d. I saw the window being broken.

Are all grammatical? Are all idiomatic? Do (a) and (b) mean the same thing, which is that I saw the whole event? Do (c) and (d) mean the same thing, which is that I saw only a part of the event?

1 Answer 1


"a", "c", "d" seems to be the same and "a" and "c" more common. You saw it while it was happening. You either caught it in the middle or you saw the whole event. It does not matter.

I would not use "b" to say this.

And "d" gives the impression that someone is breaking the window. But in "a" and "c" you do not emphasize whether someone is breaking the window or the windows are being broken by another cause (cold, sound, pressure, earthquake etc. You emphasize the happening only, not the cause why it happened.

  • You would use b to explain to someone that at some point in the past you saw the window and at that time it was already broken. PersonA: You saw the window [was] unbroken on Tuesday? PersonB: Yes, and when I returned on Wednesday I saw the window [was] broken.
    – EllieK
    Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 11:44

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