Grammar Time: Verbs of Perception
Exam in Mind Level B1/B2
Let’s learn to use Gerunds and Infinitives with verbs of perception. Certain verbs of perception are followed by either the simple form of a verb (=the infinitive form without “to”) or the –ing form of a verb. There is little difference in meaning between the two forms, except that the –ing form usually gives the idea of “while”: I saw my friend run down the street. I saw my friend running down the street. (= I saw my friend while she was running down the street.) I heard the rain fall on the roof. I heard the rain falling on the roof.
Sometimes (not always) there is a clear difference between using the simple form or the –ing form. The use of the –ing form gives the idea that an activity is already in progress when it is perceived: When I walked into the apartment, I heard my roommate singing in the shower. (= The singing was in progress when I first heard it.) I heard a famous opera star sing at the concert last night.(= I heard the singing from beginning to end. It was not in progress when I first heard it.)
Verbs of perception followed by the simple form or the –ing form:
see, look at, listen to, notice, observe, feel, watch, hear, smell
The infinitive is used after these verbs when we want to say that we hear or see the whole of an action or event. The –ing form is used to suggest that we hear an action or event in progress.
I heard her sing a lovely song. (As I sat listening, she started singing a song and I listened to her until she finished it.)
I heard her singing a song as I walked past her room. (When I heard her she was singing a song – she was probably in the middle of her singing. Anyway, I didn’t hear the entire song.)
Task 1. Complete the sentences with any appropriate verbs. Both the simple form and the –ing form are possible with little, if any, difference in meaning.
Example: Polly was working in the garden, so she didn’t hear the phone____ring / ringing___.
- I like to listen to the birds ________________________ when I get up early in the morning.
- The guard observed a suspicious-looking person _________________________ into the bank.
- There was an earthquake in my hometown last year. It was just a small one, but I could feel the ground __________________________
- I was almost asleep last night when I suddenly heard someone _____________________on the door.
- While I was waiting for my plane, I watched other planes _________________________.
Task 2. Both the simple form and the –ing form are grammatically correct, so you can’t make a grammar mistake. But a speaker might choose one over the other. Read the situation, and then decide which form seems better to you in the sentence that contains a verb of perception. Remember that the –ing form gives the idea that an activity is in progress when it is perceived.
Example: Situation: I was downtown yesterday. I saw the police. They were chasing a thief. → When I was downtown yesterday, I saw the police __chasing__ a thief.
- Situation: The front door slammed. I got up to see if someone had come in.
When I heard the front door ______________, I got up to see if someone had come in.
- Situation: Uncle Jake is in the bedroom. He is snoring.
I know Uncle Jake is in the bedroom because I hear him _________________
- Situation: When I walked past the park, some children were playing softball.
When I walked past the park, I saw some children _________________ softball.
- Situation: It was graduation day in the auditorium. When the school principal called my name, I walked to the front of the room.
When I heard the school principal _____________ my name, I walked to the front of the auditorium to receive my diploma.
- Situation: I glanced out the window. Jack was walking toward the house. I was surprised.
I was surprised when I glanced out the window and saw Jack ______________________
- Situation: Someone is calling for help in the distance. I suddenly hear that.
Listen! Do you hear someone _________________ for help?
- Situation: My daughter’s team plays soccer every weekend. I always watch the team when they play a game.
I enjoy watching my daughter ________________ soccer every weekend.
- Situation: I went to bed around eleven. At that time, the people in the next apartment were singing and laughing.
When I went to bed last night around eleven, I could hear the people in the next apartment __________________ and _______________. I had trouble getting to sleep because they were making so much noise.
9. Situation: A fly landed on the table. I swatted it with a rolled up newspaper.
As soon as I saw the fly __________________ on the table, I swatted it with a rolled up newspaper.
10. Situation: I smell smoke. Something must be burning.
Do you smell something __________________? I do.
11. Situation: I was sitting in class. Suddenly someone touched my shoulder.
I was startled in class yesterday when I felt someone ______________ my shoulder. I didn’t mind. It just surprised me. It was Olga. She wanted to borrow my dictionary.
Task 3. Fill in the gaps with the infinitive (Without “to” ) or the -ing form of the verbs in brackets.
- If we want to say that we heard or saw the whole action from beginning to end, we usually use bare infinitive: I saw him sign the cheque.
- If we want to say that we only saw or heard part of the action, we use -ing form: I saw the consultant waiting in reception. (I saw the consultant. He was waiting in reception.)
- Did you hear those dogs __________ (bark) most of the night?
- I noticed him __________ (throw) a sweet wrapper on the floor, so I asked him to pick it up.
- I was able to watch them __________ (build) the new car park from my office window.
- I watched him __________ (climb) through the window, and then I called the police.
- I heard the baby __________ (cry) for most of the night.
- When you came out of the station, did you notice the children __________ (play) musical instruments across the street?
- Vicky heard someone __________ (close) the door.
- We found Matthew __________ (exercise) in the gym.
- She saw a man __________ (lie) in the street.
- He heard the bomb __________ (explode).
- I saw a woman __________ (cry). She was in a terrible state.
- I felt the snake __________ (bite) me and saw it slither off into the bushes.
- I noticed her quickly __________ (slip) the necklace inside her coat and leave the shop.
- I watched Nick __________ (light) a cigarette.
Betty Schrampfer Azar Understanding and Using English Grammar