two men were seen getting into a car

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mimi2

Senior Member
vietnam vietnamese
Can I write:
1. The police are looking for two men who were seen getting into a black car near the bank at about 1 o'clock last night.
Or:
2. The police are looking for two men who were seen to get into a black car near the bank at about 1 o'clock last night.
Thanks.
 
  • unefemme1

    Senior Member
    English, New Zealand
    It would be the first one. ("The police are looking for two men who were seen getting into a black car near the bank at about 1 o'clock last night")

    I think from my knowledge, this is because the event has already happened, so you must use "getting" into, it's the conditional tense I think.
     

    unefemme1

    Senior Member
    English, New Zealand
    "to get into" is when you a predicting something though, because it implies that nothing hasn't happened yet. Oh and a mistake- it's the imperfect tense, not conditional for "were getting into".
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    Hi unefemme1 and .,,

    "Getting into" is neither the conditional nor the present tense; it is a present participial phrase and "to get" is an infinitive: no tense is implied or suggested. Only the verb "were" suggests past time, and both the participle and the infinitive can be used with it.

    Having said that, I don't think the second sentense is incorrect; it is, as I said, just not as colloquial as the first, and would probably not be used as often by native speakers as the first.

    Joelline
     

    mimi2

    Senior Member
    vietnam vietnamese
    Hi, Joelline.
    If someone asks me about the difference between the two sentence, how can I answer. I can't answer that it is the way the native speakers often use.
    please help me again.
     

    . 1

    Banned
    Australian Australia
    The first sentence is colloquial and is the most common form.
    The second sentence is formal and is the one that would be marked as being correct in a test.
    Both forms would be readily understood.

    .,,
     

    Hockey13

    Senior Member
    AmEnglish/German
    I actually have rarely (if ever) heard the structure in the second sentence. It seems extremely awkward to me bordering on incorrect. That is just how it appears to me as a native of the U.S., I honestly don't know if it's grammatically correct or not.
     

    . 1

    Banned
    Australian Australia
    This BE -v- AE usage difference could be confusing mimi.
    The police are looking for two men who were seen to get into a black car near the bank at about 1 o'clock last night.
    This sounds like formal BE usage.
    It is possible that AE uses getting more often than does BE.

    .,,
     

    Hockey13

    Senior Member
    AmEnglish/German
    Actually I'd like to amend my statement and say that it sounds like a police report from another country. My mistake on jumping the "awkward" gun! I would still use the first one.
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    I believe that our Australian friend, .,, , has hit the nail on the head! It is really a matter of usage. Both are correct, but the first, to my AE ears, sounds better. The real question is how to know when to use the infinitive or the present participle. I admit that I can't formulate a rule for when to use which!

    I would say, "The men were known to be thieves."
    I would not say, "The men were known being thieves."

    I would say, "The girls were seen playing tag at 8 P.M. last night."
    I would not say, "The girls were seen to play tag at 8 P.M. last night."

    Similiarly, I would say, "he police are looking for two men who were seen getting into a black car near the bank at about 1 o'clock last night."
    I would not say, "he police are looking for two men who were seen to get into a black car near the bank at about 1 o'clock last night."

    Can someone come up with a rule to explain why the participle seems more natural than the infinitive in some, but not all, cases?

    Thanks,
    Joelline
     
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