The crowd saw him clap his hand to his mouth.

This is a sentence from Harry Potter I. I don't understand how "clap" is used right after "saw". Shouldn't there be a "to" in between? i.e. "saw him to clap" seems appropriate.

  • 1
    Compare: I heard her sing that song. I felt it touch the back of my neck.
    – TRomano
    Dec 6, 2015 at 13:52

2 Answers 2


There are two verb constructions of the type verb + object + infinitive.

The normal construction is verb + object + to-infinitive as in

  • I want you to help me.

A small group of verbs use only bare infinitive:

1 All verbs of perception as eg to see, hear, feel etc.

  • I heard the girls laugh ("laughing" is also possible).

2 Verbs of cause and allowance:

  • to make s (someone) do sth, to have s do sth, older: to bid s do sth - to let s do sth

  • You make me laugh. Let the children come to me.

I searched the Internet for information about these two verb constructions. What I found is miserable.

  • Thank you very much. May I know why the search was miserable?
    – Paladin
    Dec 6, 2015 at 17:36
  • The presentation of this grammar point is botchwork.
    – rogermue
    Dec 6, 2015 at 18:19

A verb of perception can take an object + bare infinitive.

I saw two men cut down a tree.

A bare infinitive means a complete action here.


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