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I sometimes find myself writing something like this:

XXX is a project I admire and am very interested in.

The "I <verb> and am <something>" feels strange here. It somehow sounds more natural in the 3rd person "he admires and is very interested in".

Am I just imagining - is it OK to use this construct, or should I use something completely else?

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5 Answers

up vote 35 down vote accepted

This sentence is an example of Conjunction Reduction, the syntactic rule that deletes repeated material in conjoined clauses, for example

  • Bill washed the dishes and Bill swept the floor.Bill washed the dishes and swept the floor.
  • Bill washed the dishes and Bill dried the dishes.Bill washed and dried the dishes.

The relative clause modifying project in the original sentence is the focus, so let's get it out of a subordinate clause and see what it looks like:

  • I admire and am very interested in the project.

which comes from

  • I admire the project and I am very interested in the project.

by a perfectly normal application of Conjunction Reduction.

There's nothing grammatically wrong with this sentence.

One thing that may make it feel wrong to some (but not others -- there's a lot of individual variation here, since everybody makes up their own internal rules about what "sounds right") is that the first verb of the conjoined VP (admire) is uninflected for person and number, while the second verb (am) is inflected, for first person singular.

This agrees of course with the subject, but morphologically instead of syntactically, which may produce some distress to those who require more grammatical parallelism between conjoined verbs.

Another related difficulty might be that the inflected form am is so closely linked to its subject pronoun I that it is difficult to separate them, and indeed most of the time they're contracted to I'm. This makes am feel rather isolated out there.

Again, this isn't a grammatical problem per se, but it can occasion some distress in some readers.

I say "readers" because nobody would say such a sentence, of course. We'd say I'm instead of am, by repeating the subject, which is allowed (Conjunction Reduction is an optional rule applied to reduce unwelcome repetition, and this may simply not be unwelcome).

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Great answer, thanks. Indeed, my lack of comfort with this sentence is the "isolation" of "am". –  Eli Bendersky Dec 16 '11 at 22:59
    
Isn't the issue rather that admire has a direct object, whereas am very interested in has a prepositional object? A zeugma or "conjunction reduction" can work with that in simple sentences, but the combination of (1.) different kinds of objects and (2.) some distance between the first verb and its object can be off-putting. –  Cerberus Mar 10 '12 at 3:15
    
@Cerberus: I don't think that's a problem; English has lots of phrasal verbs, and mixing them in parallel constructions is generally permissible. e.g. "(cease) and (desist from) doing somthing". –  Mechanical snail May 30 '12 at 9:27
    
@Mechanicalsnail: Yes, generally; but there is little distance between cease and desist from. And cease and desist is a very familiar fixed pair. I think mixing different kinds of objects can become a bit of an issue in a construction like this when there is some distance between the two: this man I fear but defer to v. this man I fear but would gladly serve v. this man I fear but would gladly defer to. Somehow the last sentence is a bit less easy on the tongue than the first two. –  Cerberus May 30 '12 at 11:57
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Not only do I agree that it is grammatically correct, but I don't think it sounds strange or unusual either.

However, the beauty of the English language is that are usually a dozen different ways of communicating the same things, so if you aren't comfortable with it, by all means use something else.

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Grammatically there is nothing wrong with it. And coordinates two of the same type of phrase; am and admire are verbs, so you're just coordinating two verb phrases:

XXX is a project I [[admire] and [am very interested in]].

If the final preposition is making it feel awkward, you could try XXX is a project I admire and in which I'm very interested.

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I think probably OP feels the construction is a little awkward because two different elements are being elided - "that" (or "which", the project), as well as "I". Personally I agree it might be a step too far in writing, but it's fine in informal speech. –  FumbleFingers Dec 16 '11 at 14:24
    
I agree that the trailing preposition is the only troublesome part of the example. –  Ben Voigt Dec 19 '11 at 3:18
    
I like most of this answer, but I think the trailing preposition is fine. The proposed alternative is, in contrast, fairly awkward. –  snailboat Nov 23 '13 at 4:19
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I don't think it's technically wrong, but I share your view that it sounds a bit strange.

How about:

Etherpad is a project that has been attracting my interest and admiration for a long time.

instead?

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It is grammatically correct but it sounds like an "effect" to me, or like a zeugma. These rhetorical effects are better used in a proper context, maybe poetry, maybe humorous, or to attract the attention of the reader on the presence of your sentence. Here it is not the case: you want to attract the attention of the reader to the subject ("XXX"), not to your writing.

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