What are the differences between “I saw you dance yesterday” and “I saw you dancing yesterday?” Could native speakers please explain it for me? Thank you very much!


1 Answer 1


There is little difference, but you might use "I saw her dance" if you saw her performing a complete dance (perhaps she is a ballet dancer, and you saw her performance)

I saw Kate dance last night. She did the dance of the sugar plum fairy at her school show.

You might use "I saw her dancing" if you saw part of the dance. It wasn't a complete dance as a single event, but it might have been repeated or ongoing.

I saw Kate dancing at the disco last night. She was there with Harry.

The same principle can apply to other verbs of perception

I listened to Kate sing (a complete song). I listened to the birds singing (as I walked in the park).

  • And I’d add that the versions using the present participles sometimes indicate slightly more emphasis on the act, the process (of dancing, singing, etc.). But the main difference is one of aspect: to see someone dance typically means to witness a complete performance (for instance, one entire song’s worth), whereas to see someone dancing can mean to catch a glimpse of her at a moment when she is engaged in dancing. Sep 18, 2023 at 9:49
  • One peculiarity about your specific example: There is an ambiguity in English for whether "dance" is a noun or a verb in "I saw her dance". This ambiguity is not the same for "I saw you dance" versus "I saw your dance", "I saw Kate dance" versus "I saw Kate's dance", and "I heard her sing" versus "I heard her song". Sep 18, 2023 at 17:42

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