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Verb of perception

From Teflpedia

A verb of perception, perception verb or perceptual verb is a verb that involves sensory perception of concrete objects.[1]

English verbs based on sight (see, look), smell (smell), hearing (listen, hear), touch (touch, feel), taste taste.

Form[edit | edit source]

Verbs of perception have a number of syntactic features.

Copulae[edit | edit source]

These are often used as copulae, meaning that their complement is an adjective.

  • This smells bad
  • This tastes disgusting.

Note the difference in meaning if an adverb is used. He smells badly means "he has a poor sense of smell".

Licensing[edit | edit source]

English verbs of perception used transitively syntactically license a direct object followed by bare infinitive when used in the active voice. Consider:

  • I saw him enter the room (not *I saw him to enter the room.)
  • I heard her enter the room (not *I heard her to enter the room.)
  • I watched him enter the room (not *I watched him to enter the room.)
  • I felt her run her fingers up my arm (not *I felt her to run her fingers up my arm)
  • I smelt him spray the perfume (not *I smelt him to spray the perfume.)

However, in the passive voice, a to-infinitive must be used:

  • He was seen to enter the room.

Also, if the infinitive is an infinitive of purpose, it must be a to-infinitive:

  • I felt him to see if he had a hidden weapon.

Negation[edit | edit source]

This may have transferred negation, such that:

  • I don't think you don't understand actually means I think you don't understand.

References[edit | edit source]