I assume this is a correct sentence. I don't think "*I can see this be useful" works, though. Why is that? I thought verbs of perception worked with both the infinitive and the continuous (-ing form): “I see him play” / “I see him playing”.

  • Not the best form, but you could write ""I can see this to be useful."
    – user3169
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 20:24

2 Answers 2


That's a different meaning of see. When see means visual perception, either mood can be used:

  • “I see him play”: with the infinitive, I see the action as a whole.
  • “I see him playing”: with the present participle, I see the action in progress.

But when see means “imagine” or “anticipate”, as in your first example, it's always constructed with a participle, without any implication that the action is imagined to be in progress.

I can see this being useful.
I can't see her ​accepting the ​job in the ​present ​circumstances.   (Cambridge English Dictionary)
I can’t see him earning any more anywhere else.   (Oxford Dictionary of British & World English)

  • I don't think you've really addressed the point OP is asking about. Your example I see him playing = I see the action in progress isn't at all the same as, say, I see him playing for England when he grows up, which does match OP's cited usage. That version is about something you can imagine might happen in the future, and it would be difficult to defend the idea that there's any meaningful allusion to continuously playing for England, as opposed to simply making the squad (effectively, a one-time event with no real "duration"). Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 16:47
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers “I see him playing for England …” is another example of the second meaning. I don't understand your point: I never claim that there's any allusion to duration in the second meaning. Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 18:48
  • I guess you're right. I was really addressing the fact that your first section isn't what OP is actually asking about, but reading the question more carefully I see it is relevant, because he's conflating a rule applicable to see = actual act of visual perception with the metaphoric usage where it actually means anticipate. Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 19:18

Check out the explanation on the Cambridge Dictionaries website: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/hear-see-etc-object-infinitive-or-ing


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .