Would you possibly explain the following in details?
In addition, what are their tenses?

A) She liked being looked at.

B) She liked having been looked at.

I mean, in general, what can these structures mean? It doesn't matter from which context. I just cannot understand these structures and their meaning!

  • 1
    Both sentences could be said but in different contexts. Context always matters.
    – None
    Jan 1, 2014 at 16:03
  • But I guess from the point of view of the original post title and its content is that OP asked about the construction, not only about the sentence. He just cited those sentences as an example. There are other instances where one form is suited best than the other. And they both are correct in their respective context. I am asking native speakers to explain both kind of structure, tell us which one to use in which context. Jan 1, 2014 at 16:57

3 Answers 3


Although I know that I can't elaborate the issues well, I would like to point out a few important grammar terms related to the constructions (A) and (B) in the OP's question. Most of the following is extracted from Practical English Usage by Michael Swan. Some is extracted from Wikipedia pages. Mistakes are mine.

Present Perfect: We use present perfect to say that a finished action or event is connected with the present in some way. If we say that something has happened, we are thinking about the past and the present at the same time. (For example, I have known her for years. You have done a lot for me.)

Passive Voice (also known as "Passives"): In a clause with passive voice, the subject denotes the recipient of the action rather than the performer. (They built this house, is in active voice. The house was built, is in passive voice.) Passive tenses are normally used in the same way as active tenses. For example, the present progressive passive is used, like the present progressive active, to talk about things that are going on at the time of speaking. (For example, The papers are being prepared now.)

Gerunds: When -ing forms are used like nouns, they are often called "gerunds". (For example, Smoking is bad for you. I hate packing suitcases.) It can sometimes be difficult to decide which term to use (between "gerunds" and "present participles"). Some grammar books might refer to verbs with -ing as "-ing forms".

Both OP's sentences (A) and (B) are in the past tense. They both have the same main verb, liked.

Consider sentence (A),

She liked being looked at.

The part "being looked" is a gerund, as godel9 explained.

Now, consider sentence (B),

She liked having been looked at.

The part "having been looked" in sentence (B) is also a gerund. It is also in a perfect tense, and in passive voice. Although this construction is possible, it's rare. The COCA corpus returned no result at all for other verbs in the place of liked, except for reported. For example,

Most patients reported having been bitten or scratched by an animal.
Less than one in four IDUs surveyed reported having been offered vaccination ...

  • +1 for "reported having been bitten" and "reported having been offered"... I could not for the life of me think of any examples. :-)
    – godel9
    Jan 1, 2014 at 17:54

Both sentences are in the simple past tense, since the verb is "liked" in both sentences.

First Sentence

She liked being looked at.

This sentence has the same structure as "She liked riding the horse", except the thing that she liked is in the passive voice (i.e. gerund form of "to be looked at"). In other words, it could be equivalent to either of the following, depending on context:

She liked it when people looked at her.
She liked the fact that people were looking at her.

Second Sentence

* She liked having been looked at.

This sentence doesn't sound natural to me, but I can't say that it's wrong. I think it would mean that she liked the fact that she had been looked at previously, but I'm not sure I would express that thought in that manner. I would probably say something more along these lines:

She liked the fact that someone had looked at her.

Maybe other people can weigh in as well...

  • "She liked having been looked at" does sound unnatural enough that Googling "liked having been looked" will return nothing else but the OP's posts. :) Jan 1, 2014 at 16:33
  • @Damkerng Oh, good... So, it's not just me. :-)
    – godel9
    Jan 1, 2014 at 16:47
  • I don't find anything wrong with having been looked at. I use that having been construction quite often. But I will admit that it's probably not a commonly used construction by the general populace.
    – Jim
    Jan 1, 2014 at 19:24

Like is a stative verb and cannot be use in any progressive tense form, as a rule.

We cannot say:

She is liking to be looked at

but we can say:

She likes to be looked at. (Present tense)


She liked to be looked at. (Past tense)

Perhaps the questioned sentences brought here are the exceptions to the rule.


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