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A teacher once told me that it is improper to use two there words in a sentence, such as

There is a woman there.


Is there a man there?

and instead state

A woman is there.


Is a man there?

even though it's completely fine to state

There is a woman here.


Is there a man here?

Is there correct advice there? :-)

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There, there, now... that's odd that you asked that. Two theres? Seems like we do do that sometimes. I guess your teacher never read this book. Too often teachers tell us to "avoid" things, or "never do" things, when they really mean "be careful about" doing things. There's a lesson there, I think. – J.R. Sep 28 '12 at 11:09
It's not improper grammatically because each there is fulfilling a different purpose. It might be bad style. – Andrew Leach Sep 28 '12 at 11:14
@Andrew Leach: I don't see that each fulfilling a different purpose really has a bearing on grammaticality. By that rationale, either J.R.'s "There, there, now..." is ungrammatical, or they're fulfilling different purposese. – FumbleFingers Sep 28 '12 at 11:35
There is no there there. – bib Sep 28 '12 at 11:49
@F Each fulfilling a different purpose makes it grammatical. That JR's aren't does not make his sentence ungrammatical. I can't draw a Venn diagram in a comment! – Andrew Leach Sep 28 '12 at 12:10
up vote 3 down vote accepted

It's not "improper" in any sense.

In speech it's unexceptionable, because the intonation is so very different that there's no possibility of confusion.

But your teacher's point, that it's generally a good idea to avoid using the same (graphic) word in different senses, is correct. Here's what Graves & Hodge (The Reader Over Your Shoulder) say about it:

The same word should not be used in different senses in the same passage, unless attention is called to the difference

If one searches in the kitchen-cupboard for a missing egg-cup and does not find it, though it is there, the chances are that it is doing duty as a mustard-pot—the eye refuses to recognize it as an egg-cup. Similarly, if the same word is used in different senses in a passage, the reader's eye will often fail to recognize the second word—it cannot grasp, as it were, that an egg-cup can also be a mustard-pot.

Among their examples is this:

From a newspaper report:
"The mob of frightened little children reached the fire-alarm, but were unable to reach it."

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Thanks! I didn't know about avoiding the same word in different senses. Isn't that the whole idea of syllepsis to implicitly (without actually repeating it) use the same word in different senses? – Gnubie Sep 29 '12 at 22:00
@Gnubie Yes, if you're doing it on purpose, for rhetorical or humorous purposes, it's fine--that's G&H's "unless attention is called to the difference". – StoneyB Sep 29 '12 at 22:05

I agree with your teacher. While not technically prohibited, it makes for clumsy sentences.

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