When we say Two men were seen running after robbing the bank" it isn't like any ordinary sentence like "My wallet was stolen" or "The Mona Lisa was painted by Da Vinci". Like "She was made to work overtime"

Why? When we have two verbs in the sentence which one to modify?

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    It's not clear what you're asking. Why do you think "Two men were seen running after robbing the bank" is different than "My wallet was stolen"? – Juhasz Oct 24 '18 at 14:41
  • The sentence, "Two men were seen running after robbing the bank," isn't in passive voice either. Do you intend to turn that sentence into a passive voice sentence? – AnonyTech Oct 24 '18 at 14:46
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    Constructions like I brushed my teeth after getting up have no connection to "passive" usages. In fact, I suspect it's impossible to converts such things to passive voice. Although it would be a bit weird, you could "validly" say The teeth were brushed (by someone unspecified), but I suspect an adverbial / participial element like after getting up syntactically requires that the "subject" be explicitly specified somewhere within the same utterance. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 24 '18 at 14:52
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    @AnonyTech "two men were seen" isn't that passive? – djna Oct 24 '18 at 15:03
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    @AnonyTech That's not correct. Passive voice makes the patient of a verb the grammatical subject - the men are the patient of the verb "to see", and "running after robbing the bank" is a complement to what would have been the object in active voice ("They saw two men running after robbing the bank.") – Alan T. Oct 24 '18 at 16:33

When there are two verbs, it should be made clear who is the subject and object of both actions, else it lacks ideal clarity. Here, the men are presumed to be the same that robbed the bank, and the seen is not attributed to an observer, which is an slightly improper enunciation of an observation.

It is not an ideally clear sentence, and it sounds like an ad-lib report, like a news report, written hastily in informal English, it sounds like a summary of a phrase, rather than a clear phrase.

"seen by whom? where? doing what? running? climbing?"

Generally, if a phrase lacks clarification, it sounds like a quoted and spoken phase, rather than a clearly written narrative.

It's out of context, the rest of the phrase may give it some clarity. On it's own, it's a bit unclear.

  • Part of the incompleteness you mention (... the seen is not attributed to an observer) is because the passive voice does not require the do-er of the action (the seeing) to be specified. That is the way the passive voice works. It does not make it an unclear sentence, or an informal one, and it doesn't have anything to do with whether it is written or spoken. – Lorel C. Oct 15 at 15:11

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