Consider the below sentence (source)

The next day, Wednesday, saw Robert become more frustrated.

I can understand the structure of the sentence. I guess it is a kind of deletion. Am I right?


The noun phrase the next day is the subject. Wednesday is an appositive giving more information about the subject, saw is the verb, and it means something like 'was the time for' (see definition 1.6 in Oxford and 5b in American Heritage).

  • I thought it means something like seem. Thank you. Usually, I do not expect the days, night, ... experience or see something. Perhaps, the author has chosen a literary style. Thanks – Cardinal Jun 20 '16 at 13:40
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    I think you mean 1.6 in Oxford. @Cardinal, this is not a particularly literary expression, but a common figurative use of see. Find and catch are often used the same way. – StoneyB Jun 20 '16 at 13:54
  • @StoneyB I feel stupid for asking this question:(, Really. I always check all definitions included in a Dictionary. In this case, I limited my search to Oxford dictionary and I didn't get the figuratively usage of it. I asked moderator to delete this question. I used an offline version of OALD – Cardinal Jun 20 '16 at 13:58
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    @Cardinal I don't think this calls for deletion; it's a sort of idiom that might trip up any learner and (as you have discovered) often gets omitted in abbreviated dictionaries. – StoneyB Jun 20 '16 at 14:23
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    @Cardinal No need to feel stupid, either. Everyone misses things sometimes, and this isn't exactly 100% straightforward and obvious. – jpmc26 Jun 21 '16 at 3:04

While AlanCarmack's answer is formally correct (it is saying that the day saw the change in Robert's mood), I think it is more helpful to think of it as an impersonal construction.

I don't think it's helpful to treat it (as V.V. would have it) as personification of the day. It's simply an idiom for events that are observable, but for which no specific observer is necessary.

The standard impersonal form in English is to use the third-person pronoun "one":

The next day, Wednesday, one saw Robert become increasingly frustrated.

However, despite being grammatically impersonal, this still implies the existence of a person making the observation. We can better preserve the full meaning of the original if we refer to the "seeing" as possible rather than actual:

The next day, Wednesday, one might have seen Robert become increasingly frustrated.

To my mind, at least, this has precisely the same meaning as the original sentence. Its style is rather more overwrought and flowery, though. The original sentence is, to me, a perfectly ordinary phrase. (It is formal perhaps, rather than conversational, but it's not literary either.) Therefore I suggest seeing "the day saw..." as an English impersonal idiom.

  • 3
    The 14th century saw England in the throes of pandemic. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 20 '16 at 18:44
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    The Jurassic saw the splitting apart of the supercontinent Pangaea. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 20 '16 at 18:49
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    The real-world meaning is the same. It's not really the same grammatically, though. Or if you really want to be nit-picky: "Robinson was shipwrecked all alone on a deserted island. The next day saw him searching for shelter." There is no person to see him, but the sentence is still grammatically valid and meaningfull. – Jay Jun 20 '16 at 19:21

The next day,Wednesday,(Subject) saw (verb) Robert become (object +infinitive construction ) more frustrated (complement ).

It's the same structure as I saw him cross the street.

The author used a stylistic literary device,a kind of a metaphor called personification.

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    Sure, grammatically it's the same structure, but one might argue that there's a fairly significant difference between you seeing him cross the street, and Tuesday seeing him cross the street, or maybe November seeing him cross the street. – J.R. Jun 20 '16 at 15:36
  • That belongs to literary devices, don't you think? – V.V. Jun 20 '16 at 16:13

Obviously the day cannot literally see Robert become increasingly frustrated. Neither may a person see Robert's internal emotional state change. In this case, "saw" acts more like "oversaw". As in, it happened during Wednesday's watch. That is, while Wednesday's sun was shining on Robert. The fact that the observation is attributed to a non human construct may imply that it went unnoticed, or at least was not understood for what it was, by any person. Similar to the phrase "God knows what is in his heart.", it is less about what God knows, and more that no human can know what is in his heart.

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