Hello I'm Mariam. Today I'm going to tell you a story about Orpheus and Eurydice, Greek lovers who were tragically lost to each other because of a terrible mistake.

The story is the well-known Orpheus and Eurydice one. You can read it from here. Eurydice dies so Orpheus loses her. Why isn't the sentence 'Greek lovers who tragically lost each other because of a terrible mistake.' ? Even that one makes no sense to me because Orpheus loses Eurydice; Eurydice can't lose Orpheus as she isn't alive anymore, she is not able to feel or think anymore.

I looked up 'to be lost to someone' in dictionaries and googled it, no results. I checked to sentence with Grammarly Premium to see if it is incorrect; the software says it's correct. Then I removed 'to', the software again says it's OK.

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    You're overthinking things. Just because Eurydice dies before Orpheus doesn't change the fact that tragic events prevented them from being able to live out their days together. That each lost the other, or that they were lost to each other are essentially just different ways of saying the same thing. But note that although X is lost to me normally means I no longer have X, in some contexts it might mean There is no longer any possibility of me having X (I never had it in the past anyway; what I've lost is the hope of having it in the future). Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 17:41
  • I don't agree with overthinking stuff it was a logic-thinking but anyway. Thank you for the comment, the thing I don't understand is why the author preferred to write 'were lost to' rather than 'each lost the other'. The subject is already written (without 'by') in 'Greek lovers who were tragically lost to each other'. I can't make a connection between this and the previous passive-structured sentences I read; I'm not living in an English spoken country but I read lots of sentences in passive before. That really confused me.
    – user138449
    Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 17:50
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    The cited (effectively, passive) usage is "standard" for "poetic / literary" contexts. There's nothing syntactically wrong with saying things like "they each lost the other" (an active verb construction), but idiomatically it's just not common. Fanciful, maybe, but I'm prepared to suggest that using a passive construction here helps strengthen the implication that the two lovers are powerless to change their tragic (preordained) fate. Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 17:53
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    Also, 'they lost each other' could sound as though they got separated in a crowd rather than being parted for ever. Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 18:07
  • What is the source of the quoted statement, please? All quotes should be identified and attributed by title, author, and publicatio, or as much of that nis can be provided. A link is highly desirable if the source online. Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 21:27

2 Answers 2


I don't think it's a passive at all. A passive would have a by complement, not a to complement.

I think lost is an adjective.

See sense 4 in Wiktionary: "Parted with; no longer held or possessed", (perhaps also a hint of sense 3: "Not perceptible to the senses; no longer visible").


The question reads:

... Orpheus loses Eurydice; Eurydice can't lose Orpheus as she isn't alive anymore, she is not able to feel or think anymore.

This overlooks that in the beliefs of the people of classic Greece, when a person dies, his or her "shade" (not unlike what might now be called a soul) goes to the realm of Hades, where it is still able to feel joy and sorrow, although more dimly than in life. Indeed part of the point of the myth of Orpheus is that if he is able to retrieve his wife, Eurydice, from the land of the dead, she will be fully alive again. Indeed this Greek concept of Hades significantly influenced the later Christian concept of Hell.

The narrator may be assumed to be speaking from within this Greek belief system, and so tells the story as if Eurydice was in fact aware of her loss. But also the story as usually told concentrates on Orpheus and his feelings of loss and despair, not on the feelings of Eurydice.

Beyond all that, in a literary work, the fixed phrase "lost to each other" is often used when a pair of lovers are separated, whether by death or distance or in some other way. The phrase implicitly compares what might have happened hd the pair remained together with what in fact happened. One might say that Romeo an Juliet were "lost to each other" even though both of them died. Such usage is common in a literary work, or an analysis of one.

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