I'm trying to find a way to write a sentence with active language where a character is amazed by something without making the something the subject of the sentence. For example:

"Adam opened the door and was amazed to see Sarah."

Is there some way to craft this sentence where Adam amazes or something? Though, if Adam amazes then he's the one doing the amazing and Sarah would be amazed. I'm trying to find a way for Adam to be the one who is amazed, but with a different word that I can use in the active voice.

"Adam opens the door and X to see Sarah,"

Where X is the word I'm looking for. Help!

  • Most expressions are passive, for the fairly obvious reason that the phenomenon happens to Adam - it's not something that he's actively doing. You could use marvels, but it's a little formal/dated/literary. Or stares openmouthed, for example, but that's not a single word. Jan 21, 2012 at 21:56
  • "Adam opens the door and Sarah's presence amazes him"
    – nohat
    Jan 23, 2012 at 22:47

3 Answers 3


I don't believe such a structure exists in English. If Adam's the subject of the sentence, you need a passive construction to capture the effect of something else on him.

  • 1
    Per my comment, the (dated, if not actually archaic) verb marvel can be used in this way. But (again, per my comment) in general you're right. Jan 21, 2012 at 23:48

A few options:

gapes, goggles, drops his jaw, gawks, stops dead in his tracks, boggles, staggers.

Not all of them are exact drop-in replacesments for X, but they can all be active verbs:

Adam opens the door and (gapes/goggles) to see Sarah.

Adam opens the door and (drops his jaw/stops dead in his tracks/gawks/boggles/staggers) upon seeing Sarah standing there.

You could also tack on a few adjectives:

Adam opens the door, only to stare slack-jawed at Sarah, who is standing there waiting with an air of impending doom hovering around her.

  • Could you expand a bit? For example, providing examples with the first two expressions you see as best for the OP's case.
    – Alenanno
    Jan 21, 2012 at 21:34
  • Sure thing, see edit.
    – Hellion
    Jan 21, 2012 at 21:43

You could always put Sarah in the lead.

The sight of Sarah amazed Adam when he opened the door

Pretty odd way to phrase it though.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.