Verbs of perception

When you have two verbs together, what form should the second verb be?  The first answer to this question is on my page on gerunds and infinitives.  There is more to this grammar, though.  There are also two verbs together with verbs of perception.

Verbs of perception are about your senses of sight, hearingsmell and touch.  After these verbs there is an object and then a verb.  The verb is in the simple form when the second verb is complete and it’s in the present participle form (-ing) when the second verb is not complete.


I saw them go into the mall.  (I saw the complete action including the door closing behind them.)

I saw them going into the mall.  (I only saw part of that action, not the complete action.)

I watched the children play soccer.  (I saw the complete game from start to finish.)

I watched the children playing soccer for awhile, and then I left.  (I only saw part of the game.)

She looked at her mother drive away.  (She saw the complete action.)

She looked at her mother washing the dishes.  (She didn’t see the whole action.)

The students observed the teacher leave the classroom.  (They observed the complete action.)

The students observed the teacher marking papers.  (They only observed part of the action.)

She noticed the boy get off his bicycle.  (She noticed the complete action.)

She noticed the boy riding his bike.  (She noticed only part of the action.)

I heard a plane fly overhead.  (I heard the complete action.)

I heard a plane flying overhead.  (I didn’t hear the complete action, only part of it.)

We listened to the professor talk for an hour and a half.  (We listened to the whole talk.)

We listened to the neighbors having a big argument.  (We listened only to part of the argument.)

I smell something burning.  (It’s not possible to smell all of it, so it’s not complete.)

The sleeping child felt his mother kiss his cheek.  (He felt the complete action.)

He felt his wife tossing and turning in bed.  (He fell asleep and didn’t feel all of it.)

sensed him enter the room.  (I sensed the complete action.)

I sensed him standing behind me.  (I didn’t sense him when he started standing behind me, only later.)

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© 2013 Ambien Malecot