• I saw him sing

  • I saw him singing

In the first example, the verb sing is used as a bare infinitive and in the following one it is exemplified as a present participle. My question is if both of them are expressing the same meaning?

3 Answers 3


If you use the infinitive you stress the fact. If you use the present participle you stress the ongoing action, which is comparable to a close-up in a film.


As with many parts of English, they mean the same, but have different connotation.

I saw him sing gives it less weight, maybe you saw someone singing in the street and walked by or saw someone sing to themselves while doing housework.

I saw him singing make is sound like it caught your attention a little better. Maybe you saw someone singing in the street, and you stopped to watch.

By using singing it feel like the emphasis is on the singing, whereas saw him sing puts the emphasis on you and what you saw.

Again, both could easily be used for either, I can't think of a situation where one would work but not the other.

And as always in English, other versions of English may feel differently. I'm from Northern California.


Sing means a complete action. Singing means a continuous action. Sing can only be used in past tense and not in present tense.

I see him singing (not sing) a song.


I saw him sing a lovely song. (As I sat listening, he started singing a song and I listened to him until he finished it.)

I saw him singing a song as I walked past his room. (When I heard him he was singing a song – he was probably in the middle of his singing. Anyway, I didn’t hear the entire song.)

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