Seen or not seen; don’t make a scene

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A reader from Beijing China asks (and I’m tickled to be addressed as “Dear teacher” instead of “Hey!” or “I need some help over here!”):

Dear teacher,
He was seen as having left before midnight.
I am confused whether the above works for you also. A friend told me that we couldn’t see him having left because the act of his leaving happened before I saw. May I have your opinions? If my friend is wrong, could you please give a circumstance when the sentence would be said? Thanks.

Here’s how I answered:

When we use the verb “seen” it doesn’t necessarily mean physically seen. It often means that we understand that this happened. I could say “I see President Obama as a new hope for the US” even though I can’t see him and I’ve never seen him in person.

So, in your sentence, it means he was understood to have left before midnight; however, there is an element of doubt. He might have fallen asleep in the corner and no one knew he was still there.

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