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I have the following sentence:

He grabbed the Duke's shoulder and turned him to face him.

Without pronouns for disambiguation of the two occurrences of "him":

Vigil grabbed the Duke's shoulder and turned the Duke to face Vigil.

Both of these contain very ugly repetition that I would prefer to avoid. I've tried all possible combinations of pronouns and proper names but I can't a solution that sounds right.

How could I restructure this sentence to avoid both the ambiguity of the first and the clumsy over-usage of proper names in the second?

  • Vigil spun the Duke [around] by the shoulders to face him. – Jim Nov 15 '13 at 7:09
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Perhaps something like:

Vigil grabbed the Duke's shoulder and turned him about, so that the two were standing face to face.

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    You beat me to it, almost word for word. Actually if Vigil can be understood to be the antecedent, one could start the sentence with a "He grabbed ...." in many contexts. Many variations exist for the final clause also, such as: ", the two now face-to-face." being one such. – Pieter Geerkens Nov 15 '13 at 5:31
  • @PieterGeerkens Yes, I replaced Vigil with "He" to work better with the preceding sentence, but this what I needed. – ApproachingDarknessFish Nov 15 '13 at 5:46
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  • He grabbed the Duke's shoulder from behind and turned him around. [Turning around generally means 180 degrees, and if it's from behind, then that person now faces the turner.]

  • He grabbed the Duke's shoulder and turned him toward himself. [Himself avoids him, him repetition and clearly refers to the subject, and not to the Duke, because one is not turned toward oneself.)

  • He grabbed the Duke's shoulder and turned the man {in order to | so as to | to} face him. [Instead of "him" for "the Duke", use a quasi-pronoun like "the man", or even take the opportunity to convey other information by using some other designation for the Duke, such as "the villain", "the coward", etc. The "turned the man to face him" is ambiguous in a way that doesn't matter since either interpretation leads to the conclusion that the two men thereby faced each other. The "in order to" removes the ambiguity, in any case.]

  • "He grabbed the Duke's shoulder from behind and turned him around", looks good. – uma Nov 15 '13 at 12:23
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He grabbed the Duke's shoulder and turned him face to face.

Because he grabbed ( that is the action ) so turning him face to face implies he continued with the action from grabbing to turning face. could this possibly be another way to put it.

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Vigil grabbed the Duke's shoulder and turned the Duke to face Vigil.

Because the subject of both actions is the same, Virgil, we can make him the subject of all three actions including the main verb, come face to face as suggested by @long. This avoids ambiguity, unnecessary repetition and does not interrupt the flow of actions.

Having grabbed the Duke's shoulder and turned him round, Virgil came face to face with his [nemesis/enemy/foe].

(From the context it sounds that the two are not on friendly terms!)

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Reaching out he grabbed the Duke's shoulder. The Duke spun around and spit in his face. (Or some other action, that fits what the Duke would do.)

Perhaps the problem isn't too many he's but a sentence that has to many actions with in it, causing it to be a little cluttered.

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