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Let's say I go to see my manager and I when I enter his office, he is sitting with his back facing me and doing something like talking to someone who I couldn't see.

How should I describe this?

When I went there, I saw he was looking backwards and doing something.
When I went there, I saw he was looking behind and doing something.

Do they both mean what I want to describe?

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"Looking away" speaks more about what the person's eyes (and head) are doing and less about what the overall body position is. "Facing" is a more common way to express what you want to say, where "facing > face" = "the surface presented to view"

Probably the best way to say what you describe is:

When I entered his office, he was sitting with his back facing me [...]

or

When I entered his office, he was sitting with his back towards me [...]

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You could also say

When I went there, he was facing away from me and doing something.

As @barbara beeton says, "Looking backwards" implies that his head is twisted so that his chin is toward his shoulder, and therefore his chest is toward you but his gaze is directed at something in back of him.

"Looking behind" is incomplete; it requires something to be looked behind.

"Looking away from me" implies that while his body is angled in your general direction, his gaze is directed somewhere else in the room, most likely off to the side.

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Your first sentence describes the situation clearly: Your manager is sitting with his back facing you and doing something. This could also be expressed as, he is sitting so that his back is turned toward you.

Neither of the other two sentences describes the same situation.

If he were looking backwards, his head would be turned, looking over his shoulder.

"Looking behind" requires "him" after behind. It also implies that he is looking back over his shoulder, as in the previous sentence.

  • "He was looking behind him" implies that person A is looking behind person B. If person A is looking behind person A, you need himself instead of him. – Hellion Apr 3 '13 at 21:07
  • @Hellion -- I think this is ambiguous. "I was looking behind me to see who was following" certainly refers to the same person who is speaking; of course the "me" is definitive. But in the case cited, the OP couldn't see who else was there, so it may have been a "her". – barbara beeton Apr 4 '13 at 12:19
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You could say

When I went there, I saw he was looking away from me and doing something.

In your sentence, looking refers to he. You did not say he was looking over his shoulder, so as I read it he is looking forward (from his point of view) or to his side. Neither is behind to him.
I am also guessing that if his back was facing you, you could not see his face.

(edit)

As pointed out, looking away from me may depend on other factors not made clear in the original scenario.

But then I would ask why you are trying to say this in such different words, rather than just saying

"He was sitting with his back facing me and I couldn't see what he was doing."

To say more I think we need more information.

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