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To his amazement the girl did kiss her hand and stretch it out.

In my understanding, to mostly refer the object of an action. So what's the meaning of to in this sentence?

I think, the sentence should be rewrite to something like the following sentence.

Amazemently, the girl did kiss her hand and stretch it out.

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'Amazemently' is not a grammatical coinage in English. In English there's no accepted coherent meaning to making an adverb out of a noun. Adding '-ly' to a noun makes an adjective. –  Mitch Mar 20 '11 at 14:01
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4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The sixth entry in the New Oxford American Dictionary's listing for to is:

to 6 governing a phrase expressing someone's reaction to something : to her astonishment, he smiled.

So to in your example is simply a marker to introduce the reaction and identify the person having the reaction: To whose amazement? To his amazement. (Whoever "he" is.)

(And as others have suggested, you really never want to use bizarre coinages like amazemently in a sentence.)

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I think you mean: 'you should never use'. why you use 'want'? How do you know how I want? –  lovespring Mar 20 '11 at 13:40
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@lovespring: It's a softer way of saying "don't do it." Turns a command into a suggestion. –  Robusto Mar 20 '11 at 13:48
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@lovespring: It helps to think of "you" as a generic plural referencing everyone and not you specifically. –  MrHen Mar 21 '11 at 19:18
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I think saying to his is used to specify the person who is amazed.

When you say,

Amazingly, the girl did kiss her(or his?) hand and stretch it out

You are never sure, to whose got amazed there. The person who is narrating the story, or the onlookers, etcetera.

Where as, when you say

To his amazement ..

You mean that the guy was amazed that the girl kissed her/his hand and stretched it out.

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I don't find anything wrong with the first sentence,

To his amazement the girl did kiss her hand and stretch it out

here to refers to 'his amazement' which is the object. Your suggestion

Amazemently, the girl did kiss her hand and stretch it out.

Amazingly in place of amazemently (is this even a word?) will be more appropriate I believe

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Yes. Amazingly is more appropriate. My question is: what's the meaning of the 'to' in this sentence? –  lovespring Mar 20 '11 at 9:11
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It means the girl's action of kissing her hand and stretching it out led to him being amazed or to his amazement.

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