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    singing/sing

    Comment
    Walking in fields on a quiet, warm summer’s evening, he heard a solitary bird singing, and it seemed to be the only life.

    I am just editing a text and I am wondering if this should not read sing rather than singing. Any comments?
    Author Carola (236513) 22 Feb 08, 12:13
    Comment
    "Singing" looks fine to me.
    #1AuthorFelix22 Feb 08, 12:23
    Comment
    "singing" would be the normal, more or less prosaic thing to write here. One might aim for a slightly more formal feel by using "sing". Someone might argue that strictly speaking that would imply that he heard the bird's song from start to finish (with da capo). But I think that would be slightly pedantic. Good writing always manages to bend the rules, even if only a little. Aber wem sage ich das ;-)
    #2AuthorPhillipp22 Feb 08, 15:10
    Comment
    Yes, rules in language are there to be abused. The important thing is to be aware that you are abusing them.

    Another possibility (which I am not necessarily recommending): he heard a solitary bird's singing.
    #3AuthorFelix22 Feb 08, 15:30
    Comment
    I would say there is actually a difference in meaning with relation to time.

    'He heard a solitary bird singing' suggests that the bird had already been singing before he arrived on the scene and heard it, that it was already an ongoing process.

    'He heard a solitary bird sing' suggests that he was there first, and then the bird started to sing, broke into song, at a particular moment in time.

    This isn't the kind of thing that will sound obviously wrong either way; especially in this sentence with the bird, either one is certainly possible.

    But in other contexts, it might actually be useful to know how to express the difference in perception.
    #4Author hm -- us (236141) 22 Feb 08, 19:24
     
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