Bootstrap French Grammar

Learn French Grammar step-by-step

French grammar - Verbs of perception and the infinitive

Verbs of perception and the infinitive

The are several very common verbs of perception that do not require a preposition between themselves and the infinitive second verb.

Some common verbs of perception are:

apercevoir - 'to catch a glimpse of'

écouter - 'to listen to'

entendre - 'to hear'

regarder - 'to watch'

sentir - 'to feel'

voir - 'to see'

The fact that they take the infinitive directly affects the word order.

If the infinitive has no object then its subject can be either side of the infinitive.

But if infinitive has both subject and object then they should be either side of the infinitive.

If the subject of the infinitive is a pronoun and it is the only pronoun in the sentence, then the pronoun should be before all the verbs.

Examples:
Je sens souffler le vent.
I feel the wind blowing.

The verb of preception sentir takes the infinitive souffler directly.

Je regarde courir les chevaux.
I see the horses running.

The verb of preception regarder takes the infinitive courir directly.

J'écoute parler les enfants.
I listen to the children talk.

The verb of preception écouter takes the infinitive parler directly.

Je regarde jouer l'équipe.
I watch the team play.

The verb of preception regarder takes the infinitive jouer directly.

J'aperçois tomber un arbre.
I see a tree fall.

The verb of preception apercevoir takes the infinitive tomber directly.

J'aperçois un arbre tomber.
I see a tree fall.

No object of the infinitive tomber so subject un arbre can be either side of the infinitive

Je vois les enfants manger.
I see the children eating.
Je vois manger les enfants.
I see the children eating.

No object of the infinitive manger so subject les enfants can be either side of the infinitive

Je vois les enfants manger du pain.
I see the children eating bread.

The infinitive has an object du pain which comes after the infinitive and the subject before the infinitive.

Nous avons vu les arbres perdre leurs feuilles.
We saw the trees losing their leaves.
J'entends lire l'histoire.
I hear the story read.

The infinitive has no subject so it becomes passive - 'I hear the story being read (by someone)'

J'entends un homme lire l'histoire.
I hear a man reading the story.

The infinitive has an object l'histoire which comes after the infinitive and the subject before.

Je l'entends lire l'histoire.
I hear him reading the story.

Subject of the infinitive is a pronoun so before the first verb

J'entends les hommes parler.
I hear about men.
Je les entends parler.
I hear them talking.

Subject of the infinitive is a pronoun so before the first verb

Elle l'a regardé casser.
She watched it break.
Elle a regardé les enfants casser le jouet.
She watched the children break the toy.
Elle les a regardés casser le jouet.
She watched them break the toy.
Elle les a regardés le casser.
She watched them break it.