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The context from a Japanese cartoon: A villain phones the protagonist to leave the city the protagonist protects. But the protagonist doesn't know who the villain is. So, the protagonist says "I don't think I'll listen to someone I don't know suddenly telling me to leave."

The problem is I don't really know what the protagonist means. Does he mean "I don't think I'll listen to someone I don't know suddenly who tells me to leave."? I wonder if "telling me to leave" modifies "someone I don't know" or there's another way to use the verb "listen".

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I don't think I'll listen to someone I don't know suddenly telling me to leave.

This means that the protagonist declines to listen to (more exactly to comply with) an unknown person, when that unknown person suddenly orders the protagonist to leave. The word "listen" here means "pay attention to and comply with the directions of". This is the same sense of "listen" used in:

You had better listen to your mother.

"someone I don't know suddenly telling me to leave." is the object of listen. "suddenly telling me to leave" modifies "someone I don't know". The protagonist leaves it unstated if s/he will "listen to" someone s/he does know telling him or her to leave, or to someone s/he doesn't know saying something different. In short, the protagonist is saying "I don't have to do as you tell me, and i won't."

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  • I know it sounds ridiculous but I just now saw your post. But I found your point different from @Lambie's. Jul 1 '19 at 19:48
  • You say "suddenly telling me to leave" modifies "someone I don't know", on the other hand, @Lambie suggests you can say "I don't think I'll listen to someone I don't know suddenly tell me to leave.", which is a bit weird since you can't modify nouns using a single verb("tell"). I doubt Lambie's answer is correct. Jul 1 '19 at 19:52
  • @rel "I don't think I'll listen to someone I don't know suddenly tell me to leave.", uses a different grammatical form to convey pretty much the same meaning. Jul 1 '19 at 21:03
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How this kind of sentence is built with a noun phrase (gerund):

The gerund phrase here is: telling me to leave.

"Telling me to leave [noun phrase] is not the best idea they had that night."

English often uses gerund phrases: playing tennis, singing songs, sailing boats.

All those can be used as subjects in sentences or objects in sentences.

These gerund phrases can be placed after the direct object of certain transitive verbs and listen to [someone] which is intransitive:

  • listen to someone [+ noun phrase], listen to someone singing in the night
  • find someone [+ noun phrase], find someone sitting around and doing nothing
  • describe someone [+ noun phrase], describe someone studying their Latin

  • Listening to someone [I don't know] suddenly telling me to leave was not fun.

Although tell is not technically "wrong" (listen to someone tell me to leave), using the gerund fulfills the idea of an activity as opposed to a one-time action:

  • I don't want to listen to someone tell me to leave (again).

If "tell" is used or another verb that is not a gerund, it sounds like a one-time action.

  • I don't want to see anyone play tennis (today).

Compared to:

  • I don't want to see anyone playing tennis (the activity)
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  • @RelativeClausesvsParticiple Why are you asking the same question again?
    – Lambie
    Jun 19 '19 at 17:33
  • @RelativeClausesvsParticiple You are not reading my answer properly. Obviously, "Telling me to leave [noun phrase] is not the best idea they had that night." implies: me, him, her, them, you and us. You can't allow me and disallow other pronouns.
    – Lambie
    Jun 19 '19 at 18:08
  • to listen to someone| me, him, them, us, you etc. Please stop.
    – Lambie
    Jun 19 '19 at 20:19

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