Home > My ideas > Hide-and-seek?


I’ve been thinking about the difference between two phrases. Let me show you.

1) puppets operated by hidden men
2) puppets operated by men hidden

Please imagine the situation. There are several puppets hanging on the stage. Puppeteers are operating the puppets behind the curtain. Spectators are not able to see the puppeteers. The puppets are dancing as if the puppets are alive.

Are there any difference between ‘hidden men’ and ‘men hidden’?

I just felt from ‘hidden men’ in sentence 1) that someone had the men hidden. According to my dictionary, the word ‘hide’ has both an intransitive verb and a transitive verb in its meaning.

1. to put or keep sb/sth in a place where they/it cannot be seen or found
2. to go somewhere where you hope you will not be seen or found
3. to cover sth so that it cannot be seen
4. to keep sth secret, especially your feelings
(quoted from OALD)

‘I hid the credit card bill between books’ In this sentence, ‘the credit card’ is the thing which was kept from sth/sb. ‘I hid behind the curtain’ In this sentence, ‘I’ is the one who was unseen behind the curtain. Then, who/what is hidden in the phrase ‘hidden men’? Of course I know that the men are the ones who hide and operate the puppets, but I can’t help feeling something strange from the phrase. How would you feel if the phrase became ‘by hiding men’?

I’m not so good at grammar, so I don’t know if I am correct. The point would be that the phrase ‘hidden men’ is just an adjective + noun. On the contrary, ‘men’ of ‘men hidden’ is changable like this; ‘the men are hidden’.

One more thing, you often see a phrase like this; ‘hidden meaning’. I also felt something same from the phrase ‘hidden men’ as if somebody intentionally kept the secret from us because the meaning had a serious secret or something. What do you think of two phrases?

Categories: My ideas
  1. October 1, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    The 2nd one seems to be correct..Am an English lecturer and have faced many problems with these kind of sentences.

    • honeypotter
      October 3, 2010 at 1:11 am

      Hello, Love letters. Thank you for your comment.

      It would be more natural if the phrase were expressed like this ‘by men hidden behind the curtain’. Don’t you think so?

      You are an English lecturer. I’m so glad that I have an opportunity to talk with you. I’ll write such articles again. I’m waiting for your comments.

  2. October 1, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    The first does sounds like someone hid the men, and the other sounds like the men hid themselves.

    Sometimes it’s not what is said/written, but how it’s said/written.

    Similarity would be that the puppets were operated by men who couldn’t be seen.

    Have a nice weekend. 🙂

    • honeypotter
      October 3, 2010 at 1:20 am

      Hello, girlgeum! How’s your weekend? Me, I’ve had a crick in my back today. 😦

      >The first does sounds like…

      That’s the same as I felt. Yes, ‘by men hidden’ is able to be turned to ‘by men who were hidden’ as you said.

      It’s interesting to talk about English grammar in English. 😀

  3. Iku
    October 2, 2010 at 11:11 am

    I think both sentences 1) and 2) have almost the same meaning, which is “the men are intentionally hidden by someone”.
    I feel a little uneasy to read 2) though, because the noun “men” is modified by a past participle “hidden” from behind.

    To my understanding, noun is usually modified with an adjective or a present(past) participle put in front of it.
    Ex) a singing girl / a written book

    However, when you want to modify it with a phrase including an adjective or a present (past ) participle, you put it behind.
    Ex) a girl singing in a front row / a book written by Shakespeare

    That’s why I feel awkward to read the sentence 2). What I mean by awkward, I just can’t help feeling that some phrase should follow the past participle “hidden” or that something is just missing.

    If I want to write that “ the men are hiding themselves not to be seen by the audience”, I would write “ puppets operated by hiding men”, because as I said above, using the past participle “hidden” makes me feel that someone hided the men.

    As you know, I’m not good at grammar, so please don’t take it seriously. It’s just what I feel.

    • honeypotter
      October 3, 2010 at 2:06 am

      Hello, Iku! This is the first time you’ve left your comment in this blog, isn’t it? Thank you so much, Iku.

      Yes. It would sound natural if it were ‘by men hidden behind the curtain’.

      I’m not so sure, but I have seen somewhere before that adjectives in front of nouns indicate ‘status’ and the ones behind nouns do ‘temporary status(or action)’. Have you ever heard that? I just felt from ‘by hidden men’ that men, like invisible men, were operating puppets. So I just tried to put the word ‘hidden’ after the word ‘men’. Although ‘by men hidden behind the curtain’ would better, it looked more appropreate to me. I felt that men were behind the puppets so that people couldn’t see them.

      Anyway, thank you for your comment, Iku. I’ll post such articles again. I’m looking forward to your comments. 😀

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