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In following, what are the differences between these two sentences?

  • I was attended to by a specialist doctor.
  • I was attended by a specialist doctor.
  • Attend may be used transitively (A specialist doctor attended me), or intransitively with a transitivizing preposition to and a special sense of responsibility and competence (A specialist doctor attended to me). Both sentences can be passivized, yielding the two sentences above. – John Lawler Aug 5 '14 at 16:02
  • Note that if you didn't say "I was", then the general reading would say "attended" as an event, and "attended to" as "being taken care of." – SrJoven Aug 5 '14 at 16:28
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Structurally: Attend to is indirect, which is to say the preposition "to" is non-trivial; attend is direct. Note that in both cases there is an object (called either an indirect (with preposition) or direct (without preposition) object).

Rhetorically: These two things don't actually mean the same thing (necessarily). They are never interchangeable. Attend to is simpler: this is to take care of or to see to, and the object is typically a task or person, or an object which implies a task ("Please attend to the garbage"). Attend, on the other hand, is almost always used to describe appearing at an event, i.e. "I will attend the wedding". HOWEVER there are several other archaic uses, including "wait for/on " and "take heed of " -- these are the origins of the phrase "pay attention to" and a person who is "an attendant".

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Attended is the verb usage with an object, while attended to is the verb usage without an object.

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