4

In the text below

Suicides liked the bridge. The cop didn't think of that until he saw the man get out of the car, walk slowly along the footpath at the edge, and put a hand on a rail.

Why the writer didn't say

"Suicides liked the bridge. The cop didn't think of that until he saw the man got out of the car, walked slowly along the footpath at the edge, and put a hand on a rail."

Why the writer has used the present tenses instead of past tenses?

7

This is the correct form. The verbs get, walk, put aren't present-tense forms but unmarked infinitives (unmarked means they aren't 'marked' with to). That is one of the two verbforms which are permitted in clauses which act as complements to most verbs of perception, like see, hear, notice.

It is sometimes difficult to distinguish an unmarked infinitive from the plain present form, because there is only one verb in which they are different: be, whose plain present form is are.

But when, as in your example, the verb's subject calls for a 3d-person singular form, it is easy to tell the difference. If these were present forms, the sentence would read

... he saw the man gets out of the car, walks slowly along the footpath at the edge, and puts a hand on a rail.


The other one is the present participle; you could also write

... he saw the man getting out of the car, walking slowly along the footpath at the edge, and putting a hand on a rail.

But the participle is usually used to say what someone is doing at a particular moment, not a series of things done; so the infinitive is preferred here.

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    Also note that "the man" is an object here, not a subject. One would say "I saw him get out of the car", not "I saw he get out of the car". – Tanner Swett Sep 11 '14 at 1:37
  • @TannerSwett This comment is too important for me. Thanks a lot. I always wondered such structure in English. – Maulik V Sep 11 '14 at 5:09
  • @TannerSwett Strictly speaking it's a subject of the following verbs, and it is the clause(s) which are the object; but in these cases it takes the object form (if it has one). – StoneyB Sep 11 '14 at 6:24
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    I agree the unmarked infinitive is more likely, but I can't say OP's past tense alternative is inherently invalid. I can easily assume a deleted that after saw, and although it looks just a little awkward in OP's exact context, I've no doubt it would pass without comment in some structurally comparable contexts. But I'm fairly sure present tense could never work, even in a contrived context. – FumbleFingers Sep 11 '14 at 14:42
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    @Araucaria: "I see," said the blind man (and from personal experience I can confirm that blind people do say that! :) – FumbleFingers Dec 22 '14 at 16:57

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