Bob saw Meg swimming.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by britneyM, Jun 13, 2008.

  1. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    I'd like to understand how 'see' can be used.

    Is s1 correct?
    It looks incorrect to me because I don't think see can take a that-clause as its object.

    s1: Bob saw Meg was swimming.

    Thank you.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2008
  2. nichec

    nichec Senior Member

    Chinese(Taiwan)/English(AE)
    Okay, after some discussion, this is what I have to offer.

    Bob saw Meg swimming-- Meg was swimming, and Bob saw it, plain and simple.

    Bob saw that Meg was swimming (I prefer it with a "that")--It can probably be used in situations like, Bob is investigating Meg's death, after some time (evidence was gathered), Bob could see in his mind/head that Meg was swimming when she was killed. Bob saw that Meg was swimming.


    This post can be total nonsense, and if it really is, I am really sorry, I am just trying to help, and I am sure others will make sure I know how wrong I am.
     
  3. Harry Batt

    Harry Batt Senior Member

    Minneapolis
    USA English
    It is acceptable as you've written it. However, I would use "that."

    I've referred to my trusty HarperCollins Concise Handbook for Writers. they devote a section to ommitting that. The rule is simple. The subordinating conjunction that can often be omitted, but not if omitting it makes the sentence hard to read.

    In your sentence it would be silly to think that Bob was a swimming when he saw Meg, but if someone might misread the sentence to that end, you would need that . . . was.

    Otherwise, like Nichec, it doesn't sound right to me without that. I will guarantee that you would not omit "que" [that] in the same sentence translated into French.
     
  4. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    Hello Harry Batt,

    Do you mean that s2 can mean both m1 and what Nichec says?

    s2: Bob saw that Meg was swimming.
    m1: Bob saw Meg swimming.
     
  5. Harry Batt

    Harry Batt Senior Member

    Minneapolis
    USA English
    Britney, I think that would be correct.
     
  6. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    Hello nichec, Harry Batt,

    Thank you very much for your detailed and clear replies.
    I understand very well.

    Thank you.
     
  7. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I wonder who was swimming?
    Bob saw Meg walking to the park.
    Bob saw Meg on her way to the park.
    Bob saw Meg on his way to the park.
    Bob saw Meg swimming?
    Just a thought ... back to the point.

    Isn't swimming a participle behaving as an adjective in this case? That has not been omitted.
    If you insert that, you get a different sentence.
    Bob saw that Meg was swimming.
     
  8. Harry Batt

    Harry Batt Senior Member

    Minneapolis
    USA English
    Yes, Panj the rule and its examples which I read only used the condition that you needed that if the sentence could be misunderstood. I assumed that there is one person somewhere who might become confused. When I get into matters that might be confused I usually go to my cat, Dora. However, on this one I figured that someone from the Forum would come forward.
     
  9. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    Present participles are often used as adjectives following verbs of perception.

    I heard panj singing.

    There is no omitted "that".
     
  10. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    Hello panjandrum,

    Question 1
    Do you say s3 can mean m2?
    s3: Bob saw Meg swimming.
    m2: Bob saw Meg when Bob was swimming.

    Question 2
    What do you mean by 'you get a different sentence.' What do you think s2 means? Doesn't it mean s3?
     
  11. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Dora and I communicate telepathically :) Remember that next time she looks asleep ...

    Bob saw Meg swimming.
    I was suggesting earlier that this could be equivalent to Bob saw Meg when Bob was swimming.
    As Harry Batt gently pointed out, it is normally understood that Meg was swimming when Bob saw her.
    But my other sentences make it clear (to me at least) that there is nothing inherent in the sentence structure to prevent that alternative understanding. That's why I picked the two middle sentences of the group. Here they are again:
    Bob saw Meg on her way to the park.
    I don't know anything about what Bob was doing, but Meg was going to the park.
    Bob saw Meg on his way to the park.
    I know that Bob was going to the park, I have no idea what Meg was doing.

    And what about the difference between these two (I can't cope with the labels, sorry).
    Bob saw Meg swimming.
    Bob saw that Meg was swimming.
    I find this difficult to explain.
    The first sentence focusses on Meg and the fact that Bob saw her.
    Bob saw Meg.
    The fact that Meg was swimming at the time is rather incidental - it is an additional, non-essential part of the sentence.

    The second sentence has a lot more focus on the fact that Meg was swimming, almost as if Bob was surprised by this.

    I think I have overstated the difference, but I am convinced it exists.
     
  12. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    Hello cuchuflete, panjandrum,

    Thank you very much for your replies. Especially panjandrum's explanation is so clear and easy for a beginner like me to understand.

    When I wrote my question in my first post I didn't even know if "Bob saw Meg was swimming." is correct or not, but now I understand very well.

    Especially "The second sentence has a lot more focus on the fact that Meg was swimming" geve me a very clear and strong image or feeling of the sentence. I'm so happy.

    panjandrum, you well kow, I think, my English level is so low and used very simple and easy English. I thank your consideration.

    Thank you.
     

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