look me in the eye

DearPrudence

Dépêche Mod (AL mod)
IdF
French (lower Normandy)
Hello

I know there is a thread with the same name but my question is a bit different.
I understand what the expression means (just in case, I found it in the song "Dear Mr President" by Pink) but how can you account for the missing preposition "at" between "look" & "me"?
I mean, why isn't it "Can you look at me in the eye"?
At school we struggle to learn "to look at" something" & not "look Ø something" & then, we see that so I wonder... :p

Thank you for your help :)
 
  • nzseries1

    Senior Member
    New Zealand - English
    It's just an expression, I don't think there's a better explanation :)

    "Look me in the eye" means simply look at my eyes.

    Grammatically, you are correct, there should be "at" also, however "look me in the eye" is in extremely common usage :)
     

    nichec

    Senior Member
    Chinese(Taiwan)/English(AE)
    Hello

    I know there is a thread with the same name but my question is a bit difference.
    I understand what the expression means (just in case, I found it in the song "Dear Mr President" by Pink) but how can you account for the missing preposition "at" between "look" & "me"?
    I mean, why isn't it "Can you look at me in the eye"?
    At school we struggle to learn "to look at" something" & not "look Ø something" & then, we see that so I wonder... :p

    Thank you for your help :)
    Interesting.

    I would say "Look me in the eye and tell me you love me", but not "Look at me in the eye and tell me you love me".

    But I would say "Look at me!" instead of "Look me" :eek:

    I hope someone can give us a nice explanation :)
     

    Harry Batt

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Some expressions do not follow the rules of grammar. Look me in the eye is one of them. If you add something to make two clauses the second clause simply follows the rules of grammar. Here is another example. "So?" The guy asks the girl to dance. She replies that she is married. "So?" he says. It means what's the difference. But, if he adds,
    "So? What are you doing here then?" The meaning of So? remains the same but What are you doing here then follows the rules of grammar. He could have said "What?" and it would have meant nothing.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Look, used in this way, is labelled quasi-transitive in the OED. As well as look <someone> in the eye:
    ... look <someone> in the face ...
    and of course:
    Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

    The suggestion is that this is a remnant of a much older usage in imitation of other languages in which the object would have been expressed in the dative.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Hi, how are you?

    I normally would say 'I looked her in the eye' if I meant to say 'I intently looked into her eyes for a period of time as if to tell her something' without 'at' before 'her.' But I was wondering if you wouldn't say 'looked at her in the eye' with 'at' at all. Please enlighten me on this.

    Hiro
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    "I looked her in the eye" doesn't mean "I intently looked into her eyes for a period of time" to me. It means "I looked at her directly". "I looked into her eyes" would make more sense as something that happened over a (short) period of time.

    "I looked at her in the eye" doesn't sound natural to me. It may be natural in some other variant of English.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I find "I looked at her in the eye" confusing. How can you both look at her and look her in the eye? Both "at her" and "in the eye" describe direction/location, but they describe different directions/locations. I think that may be why we can't combine them.
     

    grubble

    Senior Member
    British English
    To say "I looked at her in the eye" would mean that there was a tiny woman inside someone's eye. Alternatively you could be describing the eye of a storm.

    The storm was approaching. It appeared to be chasing the woman who was running for her life. I looked at her in the eye (of the storm) and wondered if she would survive.

    Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
    Another example:

    She looked him up and down.
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    I see how you don't use 'at' at all now. And I have rectified the sense of the phrase in my head. The fog has been lifted.:)

    Thanks, all.

    Hiro
     
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