Consider the sentence:

I saw her cry.

Why is it, then, that we can't say:

I saw her be crying.

And instead say:

I saw her crying.


Why is the second sentence infelicitous?

  • I saw her sad/ being sad; upset/ being upset; happy/being happy; angry/ being (or) getting angry. [What do these words: sad, upset, happy, and angry have in common?] – Mari-Lou A Aug 10 '15 at 19:30
  • 1
    Perhaps this question would fit better on our sister site: ell.stackexchange.com – Mari-Lou A Aug 10 '15 at 19:35
  • There are three sentences. Which one of the three does the title refer to? That is, which one do you call infelicitous? And what are you saying about the other two, are they felicitous? Please be more specific. – chasly from UK Aug 10 '15 at 19:38
  • 3
    Sense verbs like see can take several different kinds of complement clause, including gerunds (e.g, crying) and infinitives without to (e.g, cry). Sentence (2) is bad because be crying is a progressive infinitive, and these are rare without to; there is a rule called to be-deletion that removes both to and be, but not just one. If you tried a passive infinitive, the be might do better: I saw him be arrested is not too bad, and I saw him being arrested is just fine. – John Lawler Aug 10 '15 at 20:18
  • 1
    @Edwin: I did a post on various uses of -ing forms and their properties some time ago. These days the only thing I'd add would be the ACC-ing gerund complementizer as well as POSS-ing. Otherwise it corresponds to the way I use the term. It's the verby end of the noun-verb cline, all right. Direct objects, no articles, adverbs, subjects either present or indefinite or governed by Equi, complement clauses used as subject or object. The gerund clause is an NP, but the gerund itself heads a VP. – John Lawler Aug 10 '15 at 21:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.