"I saw him playing football"


Senior Member
English - U.S.A
In this sentence, and similar constructions, what is the grammatical function of "playing football"?

Is it a participle phrase modifying the object him, or is "him playing football" a gerund phrase acting as the object of saw?

Can you help me parse this sentece?:

Subject: I
verb: saw
object: him playing football (gerund phrase)

- or -

Subject: I
verb: saw
obj: him
adj: playing football (participle phrase)
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Subject: I
    verb: saw
    obj: him
    adj: playing football (participle phrase)

    Isn't this a case of "verb of perception + object+participle" (here it's a participle phrase)?


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I suspect that the grammatical analysis depends on the meaning of the sentence.

    Does it mean:
    When I saw him, he was playing football.
    When he was playing football, I saw him.


    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    This is not a gerund phrase. The object is "him", and "playing football" is a particple phrase that modifies "him". Gerunds properly take the possessive form of the noun or the pronoun, but that does not work here. Here are two examples of "his playing football" as a gerund phrase:

    I saw his playing football was interfering with his studying.
    Bob's mother disapproved of his playing football because she was afraid he would be injured.
    Last edited:


    English - England
    As the verb to see is transitive, it requires an object. The object can be seen as either 'him' or 'him playing football', but it must be a nominal term.

    If required, 'him playing football' can be further analysed as 'playing football' qualifying 'him.'
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