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Why do we say 'I saw the boy fall and break his arm'? Why are the bold verbs in the simple present tense when the first verb 'saw' is in the simple past tense?
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Hi,

Why do we say 'I saw the boy fall and break his arm'? Why are the bold verbs in the simple present tense when the first verb 'saw' is in the simple past tense?

These words, fall and break, are not present tense. They are the the 'bare' infinitive, ie the infinitive without 'to'.

Best wishes, Clive

Clive,

Why do we say 'I saw the boy fall and break his arm'? Why are the bold verbs in the simple present tense when the first verb 'saw' is in the simple past tense?

Thank you for telling me that fall and break are the the 'bare' infinitive, ie the infinitive without 'to'.

But I don't understand why it shouldn't me 'I saw the boy fell and broke his arm'.
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Yes, an indication of the infinitive is that they may be replaced by the -ing form in some instances:

I saw the boy falling and breaking his arm.'

No present can be replaced this way.
Marius HancuYes, an indication of the infinitive is that they may be replaced by the -ing form in some instances:

I saw the boy falling and breaking his arm.'

No present can be replaced this way.

What you've said above doesn't explain why it should be I saw the boy fall and break his arm.

I'm aware that I saw the boy falling and breaking his arm is grammatically correct.

What I want to know is why the first sentence starts with 'saw' but the other verbs are 'fall' and 'break'.
Well, you know by now that in general you can't have two verbs closely connected (following each other in a construct) in the same mode and tense, thus saw requires -ing form or short infinitive.

saw falling/saw fall

NOT:
saw fell/saw fell

An indicative form can't be followed by another indicative form in such constructs.

Same with
has done
have been
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I saw the boy fall and break his arm

It's a little confusing because in this sentence "fall" and "break" are not acting as verbs but as modifyers of "the boy". The actual action of the sentence, saw, is happening in the past. "Saw" is the verb.
Why do we say 'I saw the boy fall and break his arm'?

This is called a catenative structure. Verbs of perception, especially see and hear, are commonly used in these structures. The verb that tells what was perceived is in the base form (infinitive without "to").

I saw him fall.
We will see him break his arm.
They have seen her jump over the fence.
We heard the bells ring.
Did you hear them come home late last night?


To emphasize the perception of the action (rather than just the event), the base form may be replaced by an -ing form.

I saw him falling.
They can see the girls working in the garden.
We have heard him singing in the shower.
Jennifer overheard him being mean to his sister.

let, make, and help behave in a similar way, but not with -ing forms.

We decided to let the boys go camping in the wilderness.
Don't make me tell you what happened.
Jerry could help us load the truck.


CJ
Yoong Liat
What you've said above doesn't explain why it should be I saw the boy fall and break his arm.

I'm aware that I saw the boy falling and breaking his arm is grammatically correct.

What I want to know is why the first sentence starts with 'saw' but the other verbs are 'fall' and 'break'.

I think Liat's point has not been addressed yet.

'see' can be used this way:

He saw (that) she was crying. (Longman)

and I think it has the same meaning as "He saw her crying."

but this is not true of "hear".

back to the original sentence, I think "I saw the boy fell and broke his arm." is also grammatically correct.

and to me these are special structures.

see sb do/doing sth

hear sb do/doing sth
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