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Is this sentence correct?

"Martin heard footsteps rushing towards his office."

I think something's missing between footsteps and rushing. By adding were, I believe the sentence becomes grammatically perfect, but while writing novel where authors loves to break rules in order to maintain fluency, the sentence breaks the fluency of the paragraph. So I wanna keep this sentence as this is in my novel if it's really grammatically correct.

  • "were" would make it ungrammatical. He could have written: the sound of footsteps, but chose not to. The fluency is all there as is. – Lambie Jun 20 '18 at 17:27
  • With "Martin heard footsteps were rushing towards his office", you would have two independent clauses, sharing footsteps, the direct object of the first and subject of the second. That's an error. Keep it as is :) – De Novo Jun 20 '18 at 17:57
  • your question in the title - my sense: it is correct! – lbf Jun 20 '18 at 22:59
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The use of rushing doesn't seem right to me, because rushing is not something you can hear.

I would use a description that can be heard, which itself implies rushing.

Martin heard footsteps pounding towards his office.

  • Yes, I thought that at first too, but then realised that you can sometimes hear footsteps running or rushing toward you. – Robyn Simpson Jun 20 '18 at 17:39
  • @RobynSimpson wouldn't that be "the sound of running footsteps"? – Weather Vane Jun 20 '18 at 17:41
  • Yes, I entirely agree with you, but by googling it I saw that many authors have used poetic license. I'm upvoting your answer. – Robyn Simpson Jun 20 '18 at 17:50
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    @RobynSimpson Except that with poetic licence, it's quite correct to say you can hear "rushing footsteps"—which is denied in the first sentence of the answer. – Jason Bassford Jun 20 '18 at 19:51
  • @JasonBassford someone downvoted this answer, but the question was about grammatical usage and not poetic licence. Poetic licence is never "quite correct", by definition. – Weather Vane Jun 20 '18 at 20:03
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Adding "were" to this sentence would not make sense. To my ears the original sentence sounded a little strange, but I did a google search of "heard footsteps rushing towards" (with the quotation marks), and it says it found "About 1,830 results".
So yes, keep this sentence as is.

  • The exact number of results found for that search is closer to 61 or less, if you exclude more of the duplicates. Google's estimates are almost always wrong, sometimes (at least in my experience) off by hundreds of thousands. Thus, it's not a good idea to use Google's estimate as proof. – Laurel Jun 20 '18 at 18:12
  • However, Martin heard footsteps that were rushing towards his office would be fine. Although, "Hey, somebody told me that footsteps were rushing towards his door." "Yes, I heard that too. I heard (someone say) footsteps were rushing towards his door." ;) So, it might actually be fine in a very specific context. – Jason Bassford Jun 20 '18 at 19:54
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The footsteps are what you hear, rushing describes what they are doing. To my ears "heard footsteps rushing" sounds a little odd, but that's just me. In addition to a general google search, you can look at examples in published books, which have presumably passed through the hands of at least one editor.

"heard footsteps rushing" is less common than "heard footsteps pounding", but it is in plenty of modern published works. Here are just two examples:

The Battle for Fallujah, by Vincent Foulk

The Marines heard footsteps rushing up to the door, and one instinctively pointed his M16 at the entrance

True North by Pete Catalano

Finally I heard his voice getting closer, and the sound of his footsteps rushing down the hall

  • It seems to me that "he heard footsteps coming toward his office" or "...coming quickly toward his office" would be clearer. – tautophile Jun 20 '18 at 17:55
  • @tautophile and less descriptive (for the OPs novel). – De Novo Jun 20 '18 at 17:59
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I don't think footsteps rush. They pound, they patter, etc. Rushing to me seems like water, wind, people, actual things that move, not sounds.

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