1

We could just see the train approaching in the distance.

This sentence has been taken from Cambridge Dictionary. To know the meaning of "approach" I searched in this dictionary and I found this sentence.

If this sentence would be written in the following way, it would seem natural to me.

We could just see (that) the train was approaching in the distance.

I cannot understand why "was" has been omitted. In which cases this sort of omossion is allowed?

3

These are two different ways of expressing the idea. The second version is not a reduced clause, where that is omitted.

We saw that the train was approaching in the distance.

We saw the train approaching in the distance.

The object of saw in the first sentence is expressed as a that-clause.

We saw that...

The object of saw in the second sentence is expressed as a noun-phrase (the train) modified by a participial phrase (approaching in the distance).

We saw the train approaching...

Compare:

I heard him knocking on the door.

I heard that he was knocking on the door.

1

"Approaching" here used as gerund or participle... Verb is already present there---- could see-, and we don't use was, am, etc with model verb

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