For example, why

I saw him eat/eating pasta.


I asked him to eat pasta.


She asked him to leave her.


She saw him leave her.

I saw some articles about the topic that told you to remember the exact verbs. Moreover, another article — another set of verbs. Can someone explain to not native speakers what intuition lays behind this choice?

  • 4
    Verbs of the senses or perception such as see, hear, watch, notice etc. plus object are always followed by the bare infinitive or -ing form. Other catenative verbs may be followed by the bare infinitive, the to infinitive or the -ing form (or sometimes two of the three). Unfortunately, there are no 'rules' that I know that can help you (to) determine this is advance.
    – Shoe
    Jan 24, 2020 at 11:24
  • 1
    Right. It all depends on the verb involved. Every verb has its own set of preferred, required, allowed, and forbidden constructions; it's part of the meaning of the verb. Jan 24, 2020 at 16:08

1 Answer 1


An easy rule of thumb is that the bare infinitive can only be used with:

(1) Verbs of perception:

  • I saw him eat pasta.

  • I heard him speak in Italian.

(2) The verbs let, make, have:

  • I let them leave at once.

  • I made them leave at once.

  • I had them leave at once.

  • The verb bid also takes a bare infinitive, as when you bid someone enter. It often sounds old-fashioned.
    – tchrist
    Jan 26, 2020 at 2:28
  • Another common one is help: Can you help me put up this shelf? And then there is the question of the difference if any, between, for example, I heard him speak Italian and I heard him speaking Italian.
    – Shoe
    Jan 26, 2020 at 7:57

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