“<look at>/<listen to> somebody do something” and their passive forms

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Senior Member
Sample sentences:
1. We often listen to the girl sing next door.
2. The girl is often listened to to practice singing songs in the next room.
3. She looked at the cat run away.
4. The cat was looked at to run away.

• I searched for previous threads related to it and found that #1 is generally acceptable, but the weird thing is that I could only find such use as #1 on WEB, TV or BLOG (i.e. I couldn’t find a formal use as such).
• I also noticed that some grammar textbooks here mentioned that #3 is acceptable while a previous thread in WR clarified that “Tom looked at Mary play the piano” is not acceptable (cf. look at / listen to + something / somebody + do).
• Stranger still, #2 is a sentence in a grammar test here, which to me is really weird.

To what extent are those sentences acceptable or unacceptable? (in terms of the actual use of native speakers)

Thanks if you would help : )
Last edited:
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    The passives #2 and #4 are quite impossible. I don't know why 'look at' requires the ing-form, but #3 is also impossible for me: it has to be 'running'.

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Neither of the 'passives' is acceptable. Both of the actives are unidiomatic to the point of being incorrect. I advise choosing better material and forgetting about this mish-mash. :)
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