0

I'm writing a story in past tense as it's the recollection of a memory. I'm not sure if I should say "could feel" or "felt" in the following excerpts:

==========

"Sue, I LOVE your outfit," she said, eyeing me up and down.

"Oh, thanks," I replied. I cooly strolled down the hall. I could feel her gaze from behind, so I slowed my pace to give her extra time to admire me.

==========

"Sue, I LOVE your outfit," she said, eyeing me up and down.

"Oh, thanks," I replied. I cooly strolled down the hall. I felt her gaze from behind, so I slowed my pace to give her extra time to admire me.

======

Which is proper? Thanks for your help!

5
  • 5
    both are correct. Your choice.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 18:13
  • 1
    Yes. Sense verbs like feel mean the same with can as without. They're like the verb speak with a language name object -- She can speak Italian and She speaks Italian mean the same thing. Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 18:30
  • For some reason, imho, "could feel" sounds better in a narrative.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 21:06
  • Perhaps because sight is not a physical thing like a hand. Consider these two sentences "I could feel her gaze on my backside" and "I felt her hand on my backside".
    – banuyayi
    Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 10:55
  • I suggest this Question belongs on pages to do with writing or literature, not language. While you're here, what sense are you trying to convey? That you could feel her gaze…? That you felt her gaze…? Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 21:20

2 Answers 2

1

Swan in Practical English Usage addresses this issue in section 125 can and could; with see, hear, etc (page 102)

1 see, hear, feel, smell, taste

When these verbs refer to perception (receiving information through the eyes, ears, etc) we do not normally use progressive forms. To talk about seeing, hearing, etc at a particlular moment, we often use can see, can hear etc (especially in British English).

...

In American English, I see/hear etc are common in this sense.

As a British English speaker I slightly prefer "I could feel her gaze" to "I felt her gaze". But as others have noted here, both are grammatical.

1
  • To me "I felt" implies a one-time sensation, while "could feel" implies something is continuing or lasting. But not sure if that's warranted by the grammar books.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 22:42
0

Both are grammatically correct.

It is better to use I could feel...

[ Instead of present continuous we use the simple present tense with the verb 'see'( I see a bird). But we can use the present simple or continuous with the verb 'feel'

I see a bird. I can see a bird. Of the two sentences the second one is the better.]

1
  • 3
    It is worth elaborating as to why "I can see a bird" is the better option. The OP is looking for this nuance.
    – tylerharms
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 16:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.