Sensory Verbs

Relate direct experience

sheep on the road
 

 

Comment on a Activity vs. Relate Experience

COMMENT + ACTIVITY

The verbs below express attitude or opinion about an activity. The verb is complemented by a gerund (nonfinite) clause.  (See Verb + Gerund.)

SUBJ + PREDICATE COMPLMENT / OBJECT
NOUN + VERB GERUND / NONFINITE CLAUSE

We enjoy 

seeing sheep walking on the road.

We couldn't help

noticing sheep as they walked by.

We recall

hearing dogs barking behind the herd of sheep.

We loved

hearing them making "baaa" sounds.

We kept

watching them pass by.

SENSORY EXPERIENCE + DESCRIPTION

A similar but different meaning is expressed below. The verb expreses direct observation, perception, or experience of something. The object noun is complemented by a reduced modifying clause (participial).

SUBJ + PRED + OBJ COMPLEMENT / MODIFIER
NOUN + VERB + NOUN PARTICIPIAL / NONFINITE CLAUSE

We saw sheep

walking on the road.

(who were) walking…  (modifies sheep)

We noticed sheep

walking by.

(who were) walking by.   (modifies sheep)

We heard (dogs¹)

barking behind the herd of sheep.

(who were) barking…  (modifies dogs)

We had fun²

hearing them making "baaa" sounds. 

(which was) hearing them…  (modifies fun)

We sat³

 

watching them pass by. 

(and we were) watching them… (modifies we)

 

In traditional grammar description, the gerund is more noun-like and the participle is more adjectival. However, current linguistic description no longer distinguishes the gerund from the particple: both are nonfinite. The terms are merged "gerund-participle".  See Grammar Notes and resources.

¹ The object dogs can be understood from context when it is omitted.

² had fun is followed by a reduced clause expressing direct experience of the subject 

³ sit, stand, lie, or rest is followed by a reduced clause expressing direct experience of the subject 

direct — something a person experiences in person, by oneself

Related pages: Gerund Objects. and Clause Reduction 2.

(Azar 15– 6-7) (Huddleston 1204-5) (Swan 242)

 

 

 

 

 

 

That-Clause vs. ing-Clause

Express indirect or direct knowledge

sheep from car window
 

 

Indirect Knowledge vs. Direct Experience

THAT-CLAUSE

After see and heard a that-clause expresses someone's knowledge about something.  The source is second-hand, indirect, from someone else.

INDIRECT KNOWLEDGE THROUGH EVIDENCE

We saw that they walked down the road. 

We came later and saw sheep droppings on the road.

INDIRECT KNOWLEDGE

We heard that they walked down the road.

Someone told us about it.

LEARN FROM PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE 

We found that it was better to take a different road in the morning.

We learned this from previous experience.

BELIEVE OR THINK FROM PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE 

We felt that the sheep had the right of way so we stopped.

We believed or held this opinion.

PARTICIPLE CLAUSE

After see, hear, find, or feel, a gerund-participle clause expresses someone's experience. The experience is first-hand, direct, by oneself.                                                       

DIRECT VISUAL EXPERIENCE

We saw them walk/ walking down the road.

We saw them. They were walking down the road.

DIRECT AUDITORY EXPERIENCE

We heard them walking down the road.

We heard them. They were walking down the road

DIRECT DISCOVERY EXPERIENCE

We found them walking on the road at 7:00 a.m.

We discovered them. They were walking down the road

DIRECT SENSORY EXPERIENCE

We felt the car shaking as they walked by.
We experienced it.The car was shaking.

 

evidence (n.) –  that which proves something to be true; anything that serves to guide or direct in the solution of a problem, mystery, etc.

right of way (expression) – the right to use the road; (cars and all other vehicles must stop for them)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sensory Verbs

Followed by -ing or base form

skunk
 

-ing Form vs. Bare Form (base)

–ING VERB FORM

A sensory verb is followed by a noun and optionally a modifying clause (particpial clause / gerund-participle clause).

We smelled a skunk [that was] passing by.

We saw an athlete [who was] running a marathon race.   

We heard cows [that were] mooing.   (making cow sounds)   

We saw some birds [that were] flying away.

We heard the neighbors [who were] leaving at 7:00 am.

We watched our mother [who was] cooking dinner.

We felt the temperature [that was] rising.

We observed the doctor [who was] doing open-heart surgery.

We noticed the man [who was] putting something in his pocket.

 The police found the thieves [who were] hiding.    (found = observed)

  She caught¹ her husband [who was] cheating

BARE / BASE VERB FORM

Some sensory verbs are followed by a bare form / base verb form. This form does not change the meaning..

We smelled it pass[ing] by.

We saw him run [ing] a marathon race.  

We heard them moo [ing]   (make cow sounds)

We saw them fly [ing] away.

We heard them leave [ing] at 7:00 am.

We watched her cook [ing] dinner.

We felt it rise [ing] .

 (no base-form  equivalent)

 (no base-form equivalent)

 (no base-form equivalent)

 (no base-form  equivalent)

 

¹catch (v.) – to observe or surprise someone doing something (often negative).  It doesn't mean to physically take hold of someone, rather to discover someone's hidden activity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have Expressions

Followed by -ing clauses

payphone
 

 

Having a particular experience

EXPRESSING POSSESSION

When have is used to express possession, it is commonly followed by a noun. (No gerund form is possible.)

We had a mobile phone.

We had a holiday

We had a frisbee.

We had a karaoke machine.

She had a baby.

We had breakfast / lunch / dinner.

They are having a party. (hosting an event)

He is having a cigarette / a break.  (take)

Have a bite / a drink  / a seat. (take)

She is having a bath. (take)

Have a good day / holiday / Merry Christmas (enjoy)

HAVING A PARTICULAR EXPERIENCE

When have is used to express experience, it is followed by a gerund-participle clause (nonfinite). Typically, the speaker expresses a good or bad experience.  "which was"

We had difficulty finding a public phone
We had difficulty (which was) finding…

We had a hard time finding his number

They had no trouble driving to your house.

They had an easy time driving to your house.

She had an awful¹ time getting a visa.

We had fun skiing. (pleasant)

We had a ball skiing.  (a ball = fun)

We experienced difficulty finding a pay phone

 

 

 

 

¹awful (adj.) – unpleasant
Related page:  Noun vs. Gerund  and Have + Verb  They had him  clean it.

 

 

 

 

 

Passing-Time Verbs

Followed by gerunds

man in wheel
 

 

Spending Time (doing something)

TWO SEPARATE ACTIVITIES

With a few verbs, two activities can be combined together. Note how these verbs joined by and can be restated.

He sat and ate his dinner.

He stood and argued with me.

He lies around  and reads the newspaper.  (or lies down)

He wasted time and texted on his telephone.

She spends hours and does her homework.

SPENDING TIME VERB-ING 

These verbs with the meaning of "passing time" can be followed by an activity, a gerund clause.

He sat eating his dinner.

He stood arguing with me.

He lies around reading the newspaper.

He wastes time texting on his telephone.

She spends hours doing her homework.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Verbs Followed by Gerunds

Summary List

 

 

 

Verb + Object + Verb-ing

OBSERVATION PERCEPTION EXPERIENCE PASSING TIME

see    I saw her leaving / leave.

feel      I felt her sneezing / sneeze.

have trouble  I have trouble hearing.

sit    I sat watching the sheep

watch    I watched them falling / fall.

hear     I heard her coughing / cough.

have difficulty    I have difficulty spelling.

stand    I stood waiting for them.

observe    I saw her leaving.

smell     I smelled her passing / pass by.

have fun    I have fun dancing.

lie around  I lay around relaxing.

notice    I noticed her arriving.

 

have a great time  I had a great time traveling.

lie  He lay complaining.

catch    I caught them relaxing.

 

have an easy time  I had an easy time driving.

waste time  He wastes time shopping.

find    I found her sleeping.

 

have a ball   I have a ball playing video games.

spend time    I spend time browsing. 

overheard    We overheard them fighting. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grammar Notes

Gerund–Participle: What's the Difference?

 

 

 

GERUND / GERUND CLAUSE

One could argue that the reduced gerund clause and the participial clause are the same with the only difference being that the gerund holds the place of a noun (subj or object) while a participial clause modifies a noun. In modern Linguistics, they are both called "gerund-participles".  Below, "walking down the road" is the complement of the verb.  It completes the idea  We enjoy... .

SUBJECT:  NP PREDICATOR: VERB COMPLEMENT: OBJECT ADJUNCT (optional)

We

enjoy 

walks.    (noun)

 

We

enjoy 

walking.    (gerund)

 

We

enjoy 

walking on the road.  (gerund clause)

 

Azar – gerund phrase;  Biber, Huddleston – nonfinite clause or gerund clause  

 

 

 

PARTICIPIAL CLAUSE

A participial clause modifies a noun or noun phrase.  Below, "walking on the road" (a reduced clause / nonfinite clause) modifies the object noun "sheep".  

SUBJECT:  NP PREDICATOR: VERB COMPLEMENT: OBJECT ADJUNCT  (optional)

We   

saw

(heard, watched, found)

sheep

[that were] walking on the road. (full clause)

walking on the road(reduced)

The sheep 

were walking   

 

on the road. (prep. phrase)

See Clause Reduction 2 for "reduced clauses"
(Azar 15-6)  (Huddleston 14 §3.2)

 

 

 

Participial clause placement & meaning

POST POSITION

A modifying clause is placed as close as possible to the noun that it modifies. Below, the clause modifies the object sheep and not the subject we.

move overmodifies item to left
We saw sheep walking on the road
(The sheep were walking.)

PRE–POSITION

A modifying clause placed before the main clause modifies the closest noun, which is usually the subject.                                        

move overmodifies noun to right
Walking on the road, we saw sheep. 
(While we were walking.)

 

See Shortening Clauses – While

 

Grammatical Functions: Subject – (Subj) the agent of the action; Predicate/Predicator – (Pred) the action or change in state; Complement – Comp  –  an element required to complete the subject and verb; Adjunct – an element not required by the verb, a modifying word, phrase, clause; Supplement – a comment in the form of a word, phrase or clause that is loosely related to the central idea of the sentence.

Lexical Categories "Parts of Speech": N – noun / pronoun; NP – noun phrase; V – verb; VP – verb phrase; Adj – adjective; AdjP – adjective phrase; Adv – adverb; AdvP – adverb phrase; P – preposition; PP – prepositional phrase; Detdeterminers –  noun markers (e.g., articles, quantifiers, demonstratives, possessives); Subord – subordinator; Coord – coordinator; Interj – interjection; INF – infiniitve: GER – gerund; Nonfinite: an infinitive or gerund clause

 

 

Resources

 

 

 

 

 

Practice

Detective Report:  Making Observations

detective
 

 

Read Context

7:00 p.m. — The detective

9:20 p.m. —

10:00 p.m. —

11:00 p.m. —

11:30 p.m. -

12:00 a.m. -

12:30 a.m. and caught him…

1:00 a.m. - Bill's wife went to bed…

 

 

 

Complete the sentence.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your responses to the feedback by clicking the "Check" or "Check 1-8" button.

 

1.
7:00 p.m. — The detective of his home.

2.
9:20 p.m. — while

3.
10:00 p.m. — while

4.
11:00 p.m. — Meanwhile,

5.
11:30 p.m. -


sneak (v.) – move quietly in order not to be seen


6.
12:00 a.m. -

7.
12:30 a.m.

8.
1:00 a.m. - Bill's wife went to bed.