I asked a question in which I said "I've never heard someone saying it", and one of our fellow ELL users corrected it to "I've never heard someone say it". Can I say "I've never heard someone saying it" or not? if not why?

The context is

This is one of the things that I don't really know the proper name for, because I've never heard someone say it, but I know how to explain it.

Any explanation is appreciated!

  • 1
    I'll answer this question later, Calne. It's only fair I provide an answer since I edited your sentence. Meanwhile, I'm adding the complete sentence to this question, because in human language, adequate context is preferable to slim pickings.
    – user20792
    Dec 7 '15 at 18:31
  • Related: ell.stackexchange.com/a/47893/3281. (Look for "perception verbs" in the answer.) Dec 7 '15 at 19:51
  • @Calne: The problem with the sentence you've given, in my humble opinion, is that you use the word "it" twice, meaning two different things. The first time, "it" means the word; the second time "it" means the concept/thing. I think fluency would favor the word "called" to mean "referring to something's name," so: I don't know what this is called because I've never heard someone call it by its proper name, but I can explain it.
    – CR Drost
    Dec 7 '15 at 22:54
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    Not really relevant to your question, but few people would say "I never heard someone say it"; someone usually refers to a particular person whose identity is unknown or irrelevant. We say "I never heard anyone say it". Dec 8 '15 at 0:32

You can and I don't believe it's ungrammatical, but both sound a little wrong (as a native American English speaker).

I would prefer "I've never heard anyone say (that/it like that/it that way)". The ending depends on the specific circumstances.

  • Oh that's true, I forgot about that, I think your answer nailed it, especially because of the "anyone" thing
    – Kyle
    Dec 7 '15 at 19:40

It's not common usage, but I don't think it's ungrammatical. I think the hang up is that you don't hear someone saying things, you hear someone say things. This means that you take in the completed speech in total, not the speech in process.

  • No, it isn't. It has a subject. "someone saying it" Dec 7 '15 at 17:26
  • Whoa, where did all your comments go? Dec 7 '15 at 17:27
  • I deleted them, I later realized it wasn't right, now I've got a long road ahead of me to try to change it in my mind, I'm used to it :/ Thanks for clarifying +1
    – Kyle
    Dec 7 '15 at 18:07

They are both correct but used differently.

I've never heard someone say it.

This one means pretty much what it sounds like, you've never heard someone say it.

I've never heard someone saying it.

this one instead of just meaning "you've never heard someone say it." It means that you haven't ever heard someone. while they were saying "it"

this is very subtle difference that I have no clue where you would use instead of the first one but I do know there is a difference.

  • Also side note I would use that instead of "it" Dec 7 '15 at 18:34

I would say that "I've never heard it said" or even better "I've never heard it named" since it's specifically then naming you've never heard said. "Someone" is unnecessary. No need to introduce a character who fails to say anything into the narrative. Finally, consider setting off the last clause some other way: you have a result and a cause, and that's enough for one main sentence. The "but I can explain it" is kind of an afterthought. Set off with an ellipsis (...) or dash (—).


(edit) I had a comment about requiring context, e.g.,

I never heard anyone saying it while being chased by a bear

but within minutes I realized that even here I would use "say", not "saying". The only exception would be if you're negating the sentence

I never heard someone saying it while being chased by a bear before that day

but even here 'say' feels better.

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