I'm reading an article in the NYT. And it has the next paragraph:

I watched Abraham interview half a dozen deportees. What he said was true: They were like him. To a middle-­aged farmer who had three daughters in the United States and was on his way to his mother’s town, Abraham said, ‘‘Is there someone where you’re going who might hurt you?’’

I cannot figure out the use of "interview" here. I do understand the situation: Abraham, the interviewer (a deportee himself), is interviewing a dozen of the deportees, but why Present Simple? Is this grammatically correct and if it is, what is the rule for this?

As for me, it would have been more correct to say it in any of these ways:

  • I watched Abraham was interviewing half a dozen deportees.
  • I watched Abraham had interviewed half a dozen deportees.
  • I watched Abraham interviewed half a dozen deportees.
  • I watched Abraham's interview of/with half a dozen deportees.

I reread a unit in Murphy's English Grammar for Present Simple and found no condition for this use of "interview". It states that Present Simple is used in two situations: an action is permanent (like "I live in London" and the action happens repeatedly, all the time, like "I drive a bus, this is my job").

Could anyone explain this use of Present Simple to me, please?

Thank you.

  • 4
    In 'I watched Abe interview ...', interview is the bare infinitive. Compare 'I saw him eat a biscuit'. Dec 9, 2015 at 22:59
  • @EdwinAshworth thank you, I have never heard of the "bare infinitive", I'll look some info about it
    – d.k
    Dec 9, 2015 at 23:02
  • 2
    "I watched Abraham interview" or "I watched him interview" is grammatical. "interview" in this case is not present simple, it's infinitive verb.
    – Centaurus
    Dec 9, 2015 at 23:02
  • 1
    There is yes such an established term as 'bare infinitive': ' As The Internet Grammar_Infinitives article says, Infinitives with to are referred to specifically as TO-INFINITIVES, in order to distinguish them from BARE INFINITIVES, in which to is absent'. // And this question has been addressed here before. Look at Non finite clause complementation of complex transitive verbs (John Lawler's answer). Dec 9, 2015 at 23:17
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth, thank you, you are right, I found this here edufind.com/english-grammar/infinitive, sometimes it is called the zero infinitive
    – d.k
    Dec 9, 2015 at 23:20

2 Answers 2


This is a special verb construction of the type verb + noun + to-infinitive or bare infinitive. See ELU 292 926 Link


None of your alternative examples is correct. You can say:

  • I watched Abraham interview half a dozen deportees. (as per the NYT)
  • I watched Abraham, who interviewed half a dozen deportees.
  • I watched when (or while) Abraham interviewed half a dozen deportees.
  • I watched Abraham interviewing half a dozen deportees.

But of all these, the NYT version is the most succinct, and is certainly a correct use of the Present Simple. It is extremely common, when the action was continuous and being reported on, even though the principal verb is in the past tense: "I saw Jane swim twenty laps / climb the tallest tree.".

However "I saw Jane climbing the tallest tree.", while still grammatically correct, has a slightly different tense sense, and is locating the report more specifically in the past, but it is very context dependent.

  • some users said that it is not the Present Simple, but the infinitive. Are you sure, that this is the Present Simple?
    – d.k
    Dec 9, 2015 at 23:08
  • I am not an expert, but it is "Present Simple" in the sense that it was present tense at the time of observation (as is "interviewing"). I would think the infinitive is more applicable in a "non-finite" sense/tense, such as: "Young people climb trees when they have no fear.".
    – Cargill
    Dec 9, 2015 at 23:12
  • I saw Jane climb the tree / I saw Jane climbing the tree - surely the only difference is the emphasis 'climbing' puts on the action of climbing (as opposed to the achievement of the tree having been climbed). There is no 'tense' difference. I also do not feel happy calling the OP usage an infinitive - it feels more like an ellipsis of '...*as he interviewed/as he was interviewing*...'.
    – Dan
    Dec 9, 2015 at 23:15
  • 1
    'Young people climb trees' - climb here is not infinitive!
    – Dan
    Dec 9, 2015 at 23:17
  • 2
    Sorry, but this is not the Present Simple, this is called the bare/zero infinitive. Just now I have found this here edufind.com/english-grammar/infinitive
    – d.k
    Dec 9, 2015 at 23:19

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