I was disappointed to see the machine broke down again.

We learn that after perception verbs we need bare infinitive or present participle.

Is the sentence above an exception?

1 Answer 1


Either "break" or "broke" is acceptable in that context. With "broke", it is equivalent to

  • I was disappointed to see that the machine broke down again.

"That" is optional here. This means that you noticed that the machine had broken down; "see" has a meaning of 'become aware' or 'learn' (not necessarily that you visually observed the machine as it was breaking).

"I saw the machine break down" could mean you watched it as it broke (the most literal interpretation). But people may also say this loosely to mean you were in the general situation where it broke down.

Note that in some contexts, "break" would be better than "broke":

  • Have you ever seen the machine break down?

"Have you ever seen" here suggests the observation reading, not the become-aware-of-a-fact reading.

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