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I am a non-native speaker wondering which of the following sentences would read more naturally to a native speaker:

The market looked like it had been the scene of a mass murder.

The market looked like it had been scene to a mass murder

I'm also unsure about the article before 'scene'. Is it absolutely necessary or could I omit it as seen in the second example (given that I'm okay with an informal tone to my text)?

  • The first one is correct. – Max Williams May 26 '16 at 9:56
  • Thank you @MaxWilliams. But does that mean that the second one is wrong? – Wottensprels May 26 '16 at 10:00
  • I'm having trouble deciding on the second one. I'm pretty sure reporters say things like "An apartment on the upper East side last night was scene to a gruesome murder." Interested to read what others think. – GoldenGremlin May 26 '16 at 10:33
  • Yep, the second one is wrong. It's even more problematic in speech than in writing, because it sounds exactly like "was seen to". Reporters use all kinds of ungrammatical short-cuts in the heat of the moment. – EditingFrank May 26 '16 at 10:37
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If you definitely wanted to use the word scene, then your first example is correct and your second incorrect.

You could, however, say

The market looked like it had been witness to a mass murder.

making sure to leave the article out. To say that the market looked like it had been "the witness of a mass murder" or would be either incorrect or at least very strange—certainly a phrase that would make the reader go, hunh? Using "the witness to a mass murder" would be less problematic, but it would still be strange—in other words, it's not grammatically incorrect; it's just not what people say.

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