We saw Peter drive away.

Turned into passive:

Peter was seen to drive away.

I don't agree with this, because the meaning would be entirely different- in my limited understanding. What's making me unsure is that this is on an educational curriculum book, whose creators would surely be more proficient at English than me. We all make mistakes, so is the sentence correct?

The alternative which I suggest:

Peter was seen driving away.

The other question doesn't adress my problem. The sentence is indeed grammatically correct, but I'm saying the meaning changes because it would cause a confusion with the phrasal verb (or idiom- I might be mixing them up) "see to". I want someone to confirm or deny my arguement. Here: https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/see+to

  • @user178049 The op has updated the question, showing that it is not a duplicate. You may wish to remove your comment, if you agree. – Jim Reynolds Mar 10 '18 at 5:10

The book is correct.

As I understand your question, you wonder if

Peter was seen to drive away

Would be understood to be using the idiom "see to it" meaning "make sure something is done.

That would not be possible. I could say "I saw to the drive" to mean "I made sure the drive was ready" (Odd but possible). I could even say "The drive was seen to by me" (very odd but still possible). Here "drive" is a noun meaning "a short road leading to a building"

However it is not possible to say *"I saw to Peter drive away". It cannot take two objects and it cannot take a bare infinitive as an object. So this active sentence is not correct. As such you cannot understand "Peter was seen to drive away" as being the phrase "see to"

Instead, it is the simple verb "see". The book is correct "Peter was seen to drive away (by me)" is equivalent to "I saw Peter drive away". The active verb "see" can have a bare infinitive (drive away), but the passive form needs a to-infinitive "to drive away".

The active verb "see" must have a bare infinitive "drive away". The passive must have a to infinitive. So we don't say "I saw peter to drive away"; that is not good English. It does not mean "escorted"

The sense of escorted could be written "I saw to it that Peter drove away". I suppose "That Peter drove away was seen to" would be a passive form. No one would actually use the passive for this.

Your suggestion of using a gerund is (in this case) equivalent. "I saw Peter driving away" or "Peter was seen driving away" have the same meaning as the examples that use the infinitive

  • The active voice which I would suggest for backing my argument is "I saw Peter to drive away", not "I saw to Peter drive away". As in, I escorted him so that he drives away (or something close). – Moja Mar 4 '18 at 17:51
  • And in that case the passive voice would also be "Peter was seen to drive away." which is why I found it confusing. – Moja Mar 4 '18 at 17:52
  • "I saw Peter to drive away" is poor grammar, it doesn't mean escorted. – James K Mar 4 '18 at 18:10
  • Well doesn't "Peter was seen to drive away" mean something along the lines of "made to drive away"? It simply doesn't click with me. – Moja Mar 4 '18 at 19:02

The phrasal verb see to takes just one object:

I saw to the cows.

When it's converted to passive voice, the object moves to the front:

the cows were seen to.

Note that, in passive voice, nothing follows seen to because the object was fronted. There is therefore no possibility of confusion with the infinitival form to drive away, but the participial phrase driving away would probably be most people's preferred option.

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