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I asked a question about the difference between the sentences below a few days ago:

1) I comforted a crying kid. 2) I comforted a kid crying.

My question was: "is there any difference of the two sentences above in meaning"?

I got the following answer:

It's possible to distinguish, though usually the two interpretations are the same, in effect. The post-nominal modifier, "kid crying", refers to a temporary or accidental characteristic, but the pre-nominal modifier, "crying kid", refers to a permanent or essential quality. If the kid differs from other kids in crying a lot of the time, then even at a time when the kid happened not to be crying, you could refer to him as the crying kid, but not as the kid crying.

Below is today's question:

What is the difference between the following two sentences:

  1. I saw the fallen tree.
  2. I saw the tree fallen.
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    Where did you ask the question? You need to link the question and answer if you want to quote it. Who wrote the answer? What is it that you don't understand from the answer?
    – user24743
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 11:48
  • The difference is between being and doing.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 12:29
  • TRomano, what do you mean by that?
    – 박용현
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 13:14
  • 1
    The tree is being fallen, it exists in a fallen state. The kid is doing crying, he is undertaking the action of crying. P.S. please format your questions better: use hyperlinks to the posts you refer to, etc. It also would be nice if you changed your nickname to one based on the Latin script - I've got no idea how to pronounce the name 박용현. (0: Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 13:24

3 Answers 3

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The second one isn't grammatically correct.

I saw the fallen tree.

Is, and means that you saw a tree that was already on the ground.

You could say:

I saw the tree fall.

Which means that you saw the tree while it was falling.

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  • You could say, "I saw the tree falling", i.e. I saw it in the act of falling. You could also say, "I saw the falling tree". Same issue as "crying child" and "child crying". Both versions are possible because "falling" can be a verb or an adjective. But "fallen" is only an adjective, never a verb.
    – Jay
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 13:52
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    I don't think there's anything wrong with "I saw the tree fallen", although it is slightly unusual. Consider the opening of Allen Ginsberg's Howl: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness..." It looks like in this kind of construction, the participle like "fallen" is called a "depictive object-oriented (objective) predicative complement"; there's a discussion on Linguistics.SE at linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/1654/…
    – stangdon
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 14:29
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As MadWard says, the second sentence is not grammatical.

When using the past tense of see, the secondary verb is in the present tense. This makes the sentence

I saw the tree fall.

As for the first sentence, it is correct because the word fallen is being used as an adjective.

fallen, adj.

That has come down or dropped from a high position.

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Both are grammatical but have different meanings.

"I saw the fallen tree"

would describe any random tree you saw after it fell.

"I saw the tree fallen"

would refer to some known or identified tree that was previously known to be standing and you saw that it had fallen.

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