If you are at a bus stop, and see a bus coming, which version would you say, 1 or 2?

  1. I see a bus come.
  2. I see a bus coming.

If it is #2, then what does #1 mean exactly?

  • I think if you put "can" before the verb see, both the sentences will be gramaticcally correct. The former emphasizes the whole action or event you see whereas the latter emphasizes an action or event in progress or not yet completed.
    – Khan
    Jun 5, 2015 at 12:08
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    Version #1 doesn't sound right to me. (Interestingly, "I saw a bus come" is okay.) Maybe there is a context where version #1 would work, but I can't quickly think of one. E.g. I tried a version of present-tense narration, "I open the door and step outside. I see a bus come", but that doesn't work for me, as my ear is practically demanding "a bus coming" there.
    – F.E.
    Jun 5, 2015 at 19:40
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    Interestingly, there's "I open the door and step outside. I watch a bus come and drop off a passenger and then leave", which seems okay to me. (Perhaps for this example it is a difference here of verbs: "see" vs "watch".) But then, "I open the door and step outside. I see a bus come and drop off a passenger and then leave", doesn't seem to be too bad either. Hmm . . .
    – F.E.
    Jun 5, 2015 at 19:49
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    To answer your question, in your given context I'd say version #2 "I see a bus coming" and would never think of saying version #1. Actually, you even used version #2 in your question: "If you are at a bus stop, and (you) see a bus coming, …"
    – F.E.
    Jun 5, 2015 at 19:55

3 Answers 3


I see a bus come.

I see a bus coming.

When you say I see a bus come, it means the bus has already come, and now stopped at the stand. When you say I see a bus coming, it means the bus is on its way to the stop, progressing.

  1. We saw Kim leave the bank.

  2. We saw Kim leaving the bank.

Slight as it is, there is a difference in meaning between those sentences.

In sentence #1, we saw the whole event of Kim's leaving the bank, while in sentence #2, we saw a segment of it. Sentence #2 has a progressive meaning in it. The contrast is same as that between Kim left the bank and Kim was leaving the bank.

From - CGEL page no. 1237

Some other example sentences might be helpful -

  1. I saw him play.

  2. I saw him playing.

In sentence #3, it is meant that I saw his playing throughout the match, while in sentence #2, it meant that I saw his playing for sometime during the match. Something like that.


In the present tense, only the first sentence is correct. However, in the past, both can be correct, but have a different meaning. Here's why:

Using come means that you saw the entire action of the bus driving to the bus stop.

I saw the bus come to the bus stop.

Coming, on the other hand means that at some point in time you saw the bus driving towards the bus stop, but you did not see the entire action. You haven't seen it from start to finish.

I saw the bus coming.

This doesn't necessarily mean they didn't actually see the bus come all the way to the stop, but they're only speaking about a moment in time where they saw that the bus was on its way to the bus stop.

  • 2
    Sorry but no - the first version is incorrect. We would say : "I see a bus coming". We don't really ever refer to the whole process of the bus arriving. Even "I saw the bus come to the bus stop" sounds odd and gives the impression that you are not at the bus stop, but watching from somewhere else, but then you would not use come (as that implies it is coming to you), but would probably say 'arrive at' instead of 'come to'.
    – Steve Ives
    Jun 5, 2015 at 7:10
  • Thanks, Sander. Can you elaborate more on why and how the coming doesn't work in present tense? In present, you can only see the bus on its way, which is a moment. Especially if you are talking to someone by you asking if a bus is coming.
    – Joe Kim
    Jun 5, 2015 at 7:18
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    Coming is the right answer for the present tense - the bus is in the process of coming. You could say "The bus has come" after it's arrived.
    – Steve Ives
    Jun 5, 2015 at 7:21
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    @Steve Ives Yes it is rather odd to say that you saw the bus come, but it is grammatically correct. Joe Kim, you cannot use the bare infinitive come in the present here because the action of the bus coming is still going on so you have not yet seen the entire action. You can find more information here: englishgrammar.org/verbs-perception
    – Vlammuh
    Jun 5, 2015 at 7:22
  • @Sander - it is grammatically correct, but it does sound odd...
    – Steve Ives
    Jun 5, 2015 at 7:26

You are at a particular bus stop. You are looking at a particular bus which is coming (i.e. the process is going on).

You describe a 'clear context'. The process of bus coming to the stand.


I see the bus coming.

I see a bus come is not grammatical unless you are speaking in a biblical way. However, that too, I'm not sure!

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