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This question already has an answer here:

After can see/hear, can the bare infinitive be used?

e.g.,

I could see John get on the bus.

We can say "I could see John getting on the bus," but is it possible to say "I could see John get on the bus."

This is in response to Roguemue's comment that this is a replicant of a post. Roguermue's suggested post is about the verb hear + personal pronoun: this post is about the modal + can + see/hear + infinitive without to. To go on further, as posted down below, it was my assumption that the construction is okay, but Swan, Practical English Usage, wrote that it's an invalid construction "After can see/hear only the -ing structure is used. I could see John getting on the bus. (NOT J could see John get ... ) These structures can be used after passive forms of hear and see. In this case, the infinitive has to." (Practical English Usage, 242, pg. 222)

I am looking to either confirm Swan's usage rule or to find opposing evidence.

marked as duplicate by Tushar Raj, Edwin Ashworth, anongoodnurse, tchrist, Marv Mills Jun 27 '15 at 8:40

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    Yes. Grammar apart, I suppose it's widely used. – Kris Jun 25 '15 at 6:37
  • This grammar point has been explained several times. – rogermue Jun 25 '15 at 7:10
  • Rogermue, if you read the post you just said is a duplicate, you would find that they have almost nothing in common. – Revlis Lain Jun 26 '15 at 1:39
  • This is an exact duplicate, and the answer provided there is given by a citable authority: sense verbs are different in that both versions are correct. – tchrist Jun 26 '15 at 2:49
  • @tchrist heard me talk [verb+pronoun+bare infinitive] and John get on the bus [noun+bare infinitive+pp] seems different to me. I am also talking about specificity of the usage, when Swan has stated it is not grammatically correct. The answer to the other post is a very general answer to all sensory verbs. It does not pertain to the question that I have placed. – Revlis Lain Jun 26 '15 at 3:08
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Both are fine to say, and the subtle difference would be:

"I could see John getting on the bus." = I could see John (while/as he was) getting on the bus. Your could see him while he was getting on the bus, which is implied.

"I could see John get on the bus." = I could see John when he got on the bus. This statement simply puts focus on the fact that he got on the bus and you could see him right at that moment.

As you may see here, there isn't much of a difference, is there? I guess, it's a matter of style (of speech), what you wish to say or a choice of words.

  • This was my assumption too, but Swan, Practical English Usage, wrote that it's an invalid construction "After can see/hear only the -ing structure is used. I could see John getting on the bus. (NOT J could see John get ... ) These structures can be used after passive forms of hear and see. In this case, the infinitive has to." (pg. 222) uqu.edu.sa/files2/tiny_mce/plugins/filemanager/files/4281712/… – Revlis Lain Jun 26 '15 at 1:45
  • Not quite so. The following is from page 222: "After can see/hear (which refer to actions and events that are in progress - see 125), only the -ing structure is used. "events ... in progress" is key. But the two scenarios may have a subtle difference based on what we wish to say, as explained. – Sankarane Jun 26 '15 at 11:00

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