I have a question about the differences between

It was someone doing something


It was someone who did something

For example:

It was him watching the TV


It was him who watched the TV

What are the differences between these two sentences? Why should people use -ING form (like watching)? Does it mean "happening"?

  • 3
    Not your question, but I guess you mean "watching/watched TV" instead of "watching/watched the TV". The latter means "observing", e.g. making sure it's not stolen or walks away, the former meaning watching the movie or whatever is shown on the screen.
    – Stephie
    Mar 8, 2016 at 13:08
  • Those are two different English tenses, but the difference in meaning in practically negligible.
    – J.R.
    Mar 8, 2016 at 13:34
  • The problem is that we would most likely say: He was the one watching TV. And we probably would not start with: It was him. Except in some cases like: It was him watching TV; I saw him.
    – Lambie
    Apr 21, 2021 at 14:20

1 Answer 1


To answer your question, "was watching" describes a continuous action over a period of time. You don't have to specify the period of time, but I have done for clarity in this example.

He was watching the television all night.

"watched" describes some completed action:

He watched the television and then he went to bed.

As for the "it was him" part of your sentence, this is not a natural way of saying it. For a start, he is the subject of the sentence, so you have to say "he was watching", not "him was watching". A more natural way of saying it would be

He was the one that was watching the television

  • Watching the television? Why? Was it prone to walk away? Please see my comment above.
    – Stephie
    Mar 8, 2016 at 13:25
  • Maybe it was a very exciting television...
    – JavaLatte
    Mar 8, 2016 at 13:27
  • 2
    @Stephie - watching television might be more common, but watching the television is not unheard of.
    – J.R.
    Mar 8, 2016 at 14:51
  • Having the television on but not watching it is also not unheard of...
    – JavaLatte
    Mar 8, 2016 at 16:49
  • Thank you guys for helping, regardless of how would people convey this meaning, only grammatically. " it was him watched TV" this is wrong right? because the second verb has to be in the form of ING, so it should be "it was him watching TV", Example like "Have you ever seen him playing football" Does "Have you ever seen him playing football" - Playing football describe a single action or it describes a continuous action over a period of time? I know playing is a continuous action, but you can't say "Have you ever seen him PLAY football" right ?? Mar 8, 2016 at 21:30

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