A dog followed the man into the store.

Is it only me who thinks the sentence above means both?

  1. A dog was walking behind the man into the store.
  2. The man got into the store by the following of a dog.

I think it's possible the sentence means both, although the second version sounds very weird, but anyways, it can be interpreted the 2nd way.

  • 6
    Could you explain in more detail what you expect the second sentence to mean? For example, would the dog be in front of the man? Or perhaps is there someone at the door who lets people pass if there is a dog following them? Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 16:52
  • 3
    @Kamil Drakari I wrote the 2nd to mean "the dogs' following caused him to be into the store".
    – GKK
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 18:15
  • 2
    Do you mean #2 to have the same sense as "A man tossed the newspaper into the store" ?
    – A C
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 21:34
  • 4
    Are you talking about "herding"? (Where dogs cause sheep to move into a particular area by following them)....The dog herded the sheep into .... the pen. >>> The dog "herded" the man into the store??
    – Lorel C.
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 22:06
  • 3
    You could say the dog escorted the man into the store. Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 23:36

8 Answers 8


Your conjecture is invalid.

Follow takes an object and an optional locative complement designating the destination or path of movement. But it never has a causative sense: the subject does not cause the object to move.

  • Is the reason my conjecture is invalid just that the 2nd doesn't make sense?
    – GKK
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 13:41
  • 4
    @SIS It is invalid and the second "doesn't make sense" because follow never has the causative meaning which you attribute to it. Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 13:57
  • 12
    Maybe the dog chased the man into the store? Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 15:26
  • 1
    I'm a native speaker of American English, and I kind of understand what the OP is getting at. Maybe I'm crazy but I'm starting to think OP is valid because I could have sworn I've heard it used this way before. Perhaps it is idiomatic or regional. For example, I think I've heard a sentence structure like this: "The man followed his date through the dark alley". Follow here having the same meaning as "escort". Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 23:33
  • 5
    @KodosJohnson "The man followed his date through the dark alley" still doesn't have a causative sense, nor does "escorted", unlike verbs such as "pushed" and "threw".
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 9:04

No, the second meaning does not work. The word follow cannot have that meaning.

For contrast, let's look at a different sentence:

A dog chased the man into the store.

This sentence can have two different interpretations:

  1. The man caused the dog to enter the store. (The man chose to run into the store, and the dog ran in behind him.)

  2. The dog caused the man to enter the store. (The man was running to get away from the dog, and the path away from the dog led into the store.)

Why can this sentence have more than one interpretation? Because the word chase has more than one meaning, and the sentence does not make it absolutely clear which meaning should apply.

chase - verb (1)

transitive verb

1 :

  a : to follow rapidly : PURSUE

    // a dog chasing a rabbit


4 : to cause to depart or flee : DRIVE

  // chase the dog out of the garden



The first interpretation uses definition 1a. The second interpretation uses definition 4.

For the purposes of our discussion, definition 4 is the more interesting definition. This definition describes a particular kind of relationship between the subject of the verb (dog) and the object of the verb (man), where the action of the subject is causing a certain behavior in the object. (That behavior is "running away".) In short, definition 4 is the only reason we can say that the dog caused the man to do something. If the word chase did not have definition 4, then we could not interpret the sentence that way.

Now, if we look at the definitions for the word follow in the dictionary, do we see any definitions similar to chase's definition 4? That is, do we see a definition where the action of the subject is causing a certain behavior in the object? No, we do not. There is no definition of follow that describes a situation where the dog is causing the man to enter the store.

  • Are you a native speaker of American English? Or British?
    – GKK
    Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 6:57
  • @GKK American English, but I am confident that my analysis holds true for both varieties.
    – MJ713
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 15:59

I don't know what you mean by the second sentence, it makes no sense to me. The sentence you are asking about means: a man walks into the store and is followed by a dog. The dog is walking behind the man.

  • I think the 2nd interpretation can be possible if we think "to be" is implied as in "A dog followed the man (to be) into the store".
    – GKK
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 10:53
  • 2
    The " to be " makes no sense, just say: the dog followed the man into the store.
    – anouk
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 10:54
  • 1
    @SIS You can say "A dog followed the man in order to get into the store". But it needs to be stated. Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 17:09
  • 6
    @SIS if it doesn't make sense at all, then it is automatically NOT a possible interpretation. Those two things are mutually exclusive. It has to make sense FIRST, in order to be a possible interpretation. Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 17:43
  • 1
    @NigelTouch - that wording would still be the first sense that SIS described, though. The second sense requires the meaning to be that the dog preceded the man.
    – Myles
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 19:19

You are correct that your second sentence "sounds very weird". That is because it makes no sense. It seems to suggest that the man somehow got into the store (was allowed to enter) by "the following of a dog" (because he was followed by a dog), which is just plain crazy, unless the shop only allows humans to enter if a dog goes in after them. Maybe you mean "the man went into the store, followed by a dog". We can use "follow" a number of ways: e.g. to literally move along behind someone or something, or to happen after something else, or to sympathise with and admire (of a leader).


  • Follow also means keep track of. As in I'm following that news story. (Although that meaning has nothing to do with physical location.) Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 14:42
  • 3
    I disagree with the reason why it sounds weird. While the phrase makes no sense in the second version, that's not due to anything regarding shop policies on dogs and humans, but rather because English syntax is fairly strict about subject-verb-object order for this sort of expression, and the second version places the man as the subject (i.e. the man is doing the following). It would be a perfectly reasonable sentence to say "A man followed the dog into the store" (Perhaps the man knows the dog shouldn't be in the store, and went in after it to bring it back out).
    – Myles
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 19:26

There are verbs that describe an action of a subject causing an object to enter into something:

I forced a square peg into a round hole.

The students moved their possessions into the dormitory.

The board of directors forced the company president into retirement.

The general sent two divisions into the valley.

The mermaids lured sailors into the ocean.

The artists fastened the painting into its frame.

He poked his head into the room.

She pushed him into the water.

You have painted yourself into a corner.

The child cajoled her parents into buying candy.

Some of those meanings of "into" are more abstract than others, but in all cases the verb is understood as causing the thing described in the "into" phrase.

But plenty of verbs do not have this construction. For example, it is not possible for me to stand myself into unconsciousness, even if I cause myself to fall unconscious by standing in a bad posture for a long time. I cannot know a book into a library, even if I am responsible for purchasing books for the library and knowing the book caused me to buy it.

Perhaps the man went into the store in hopes of getting away from the dog that was following him, and therefore the dog caused the man to enter the store by following him. But that fact is not a meaning of the sentence, "The dog followed the man into the store." We do not use the construction followed into to indicate causation.


As others have said, your second interpretation is incorrect. You may, however, have been thinking of a similar phrasing that would be correct, although still unusual.

The dog-following man entered the store.

This makes sense and would be inline with your second interpretation. However, it's kind of hard to come up with a situation where I would actually use it. Maybe in a story about a man who saw a stray dog and decided to follow it to see where it went?

  • 3
    "Dog-following man" is not what OP was trying to say. He clarified this in a comment: in his second interpretation, the dog is still following the man, but the action of the dog following the man is what caused the man to enter the store.
    – MJ713
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 21:55

Punctuation is important.

With careful punctuation, it is possible to twist the sentence to match your second meaning:

A dog, followed the man - into the store

However, this requires an unnatural form of the language, and is likely to only be used either poetically, or in writing to emphasise that English is not a character's primary language. Sound like Yoda, you will.

Compare with this famous example, used in teaching English language:

Caesar entered on his head his helmet in his eye a steely glint in his hand his sword saying nothing

Now, punctuate it:

Caesar entered - on his head, his helmet; in his eye, a steely glint; in his hand, his sword - saying nothing.

  • You are misinterpreting OP's meaning (though you are not the first; the phrasing is very odd). He clarified in comments that by "The man got into the store by the following of a dog", he meant "the dog's following caused the man to enter the store", not "the man followed the dog".
    – MJ713
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 16:41
  • @MJ713 Ah, so more "the dog chased the man into the store", and not "the man followed the dog, which let him into the store" Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 18:47
  • Yes, exactly. See in particular this comment.
    – MJ713
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 18:52

Campbells Chunky Soup once ran an advertisement which stated:

The soup that eats like a meal.

The soup that eats like a meal.
(source: duke.edu)

This is a similar structure to what you've pointed out. It does not appear in ELL search results, but here is a link to another forum: https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/soup-that-eats-like-a-meal.2557239/

For reference, I'll copy some examples from there, to here.

For ex., "I load the gun" but also "This gun loads easily"; "I drive the truck" but also "This truck drives like a car".

I think this is similar because your sentence "A dog followed the man into the store" can be reworded as "The man was followed by the dog", where "followed" can take either meaning.

  • 2
    Your examples aren't the same. We can't say, "This truck drives a man like a car." or "This gun loads a woman easily." Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 9:23
  • First, even in the sentence "The man was followed by the dog into the store", I do not see how we can interpret the meaning as the dog causing the man to enter the store. Second, your "The soup that eats like a meal" example does not have a similar structure to OP's sentence; it's a sentence fragment with a defining relative clause rather than a full sentence, and the verb "eats" has no direct object in this slang usage (unlike "followed" in OP's sentence).
    – MJ713
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 16:33

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