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I have a question about the usage of the verb see in this article:

New York City also saw its one millionth runner on Sunday since the race's inception in 1970. Julissa Sarabia, of Sunnyside, New York, crossed the finish line in 5:19:47.

How does a city "see" a person? No dictionary definitions fit the usage above. A person could "see" a city though.

The closest definition is definition 14 for the verb "see" in this dictionary:

def 14. to be the place or time in which (something) happens

, which says that a place could see a event, but does not say a place could see a person.

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First, to address the issue of your last, edited sentence ("[the dictionary] says that a place could see a event, but does not say a place could see a person."), and your similar comment:

In this case the event is the person. The noun phrase can be read as ...[the milestone of] its one millionth runner on Sunday since the race's inception in 1970. Although the one millionth runner is actually named, what is really being talked about in this sentence and in the article as a whole is numbers of runners. Each sentence in the article reports on a certain number of runners.

I have added another example (using a time) to the end of this answer.


Yes, the example sentences for Definition 14 include one that has the same usage:

The last decade saw many technological advances.

14 also has an example with city as the subject:

The city has seen a lot of growth in recent years. [= the city has grown a lot in recent years]

Going with the above rewrite, you get:

[= New York City also had its one millionth runner on Sunday since the race's inception in 1970.]

It is not too far from 13 'to experience something', thus

New York City also experienced its one millionth runner on Sunday since the race's inception in 1970.


Additional example, using a time (a certain year):

Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1793.

One could also say

1793 saw the invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney

and

1793 saw Eli Whitney invent the cotton gin.

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    This is a really good answer – Sam Harrington Mar 25 '16 at 0:46
  • But, isn't "the city saw an event" different from "the city saw a person"? The dictionary only allows the former. But the article uses the latter. – meatie Mar 25 '16 at 3:25
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    @meatie, I agree that a person is not an "event", but you have to read it slightly less literally than that. "Its one millionth runner" = "the occurrence of the one millionth runner". – stangdon Mar 25 '16 at 13:52
  • @meatie Put my comment, which I wrote at the same time as stangdon wrote his/hers, into the answer. – Alan Carmack Mar 25 '16 at 14:05
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    +1 - Good answer. Meatie - Dictionaries don't "allow" usages. They describe them. Not every nuance will be described in every dictionary. – Adam Mar 25 '16 at 14:19
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It is certainly possible for a city to see something. In the very definition (#14) you cite, you see the example

The city has seen a lot of growth in recent years. [=the city has grown a lot in recent years]

This meaning is also found, for example, in the Oxford Advanced Learner's where transitive senses 17 is

to be the place where an event happens

This is a metaphorical extension of see. To witness something with your eyes is to experience it. To experience something is to be linked to it, in time or place at the very least. Thus, it is not remarkable that even inanimate objects, philosophical concepts, political movements, and the like can see things, when they serve as a reference marker to something happening around them.

From recent news headlines, we can find examples like

New York voter registration online sees…

Push to save Deakin University Warrnambool campus sees…

Reverse genetic engineering sees…

Volcan no-show sees…

If it helps, you can think of it as a case of personification, where the author is attributing human qualities to something non-human, like the online voter registation process in New York State, or an experiment in genetic engineering, or the absence of a player from a sporting competition.

  • But, isn't "the city saw an event" different from "the city saw a person"? The dictionary only allows the former. But the article uses the latter. – meatie Mar 25 '16 at 3:26
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    The point of the sentence is not that the runner has been viewed and her form been recognized, it is that she is the one millionth runner to compete in New York. The meaning is essentially the same as saying New York City had its millionth runner, or New York City counted its millionth runner, or New York City marked its millionth runner. There are many, many meanings and uses of see; don't get caught up in just one of them. – choster Mar 25 '16 at 4:06
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I would go with see:

2a. to get a clear mental impression of; grasp by thinking; understand" ⇒ to see the point of a joke"

It is kind of like:

New York City also recognized (got a clear mental impression of) its one millionth runner.

In this example "New York City" actually means "The people of New York City (as a group)".

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