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I interpret the latter part of the following sentence to mean "and are quite unprepared to offer the priority seats to those whom the seats are meant for." If this is correct, "to" seems to be missing between them and those. Or is this sentence correct the way it is?

The 88-year-old, who lives off Hills Road, said: “On our buses it is very common for young people to occupy priority seats and are quite unprepared to offer them those the seats are meant for. (Cambridge News, 2014.4.12.)

  • That’s dialectal, and reported speech to boot. The “are” is certainly not correct, unless the original also has a subject that just got lost on the way here. It is common for X to Y and are… is not correct in any kind of English that I know of. Leaving out the to in the latter part of the sentence here would be accidental in most dialects, but fairly common, though colloquial, in some BrE dialects. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 11 '14 at 12:02
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    If that was from a local newspaper in Cambridge, then it is indeed an error. – Araucaria Nov 11 '14 at 13:21
  • When speaking extemporaneously, and forming a complex sentence, it's not uncommon to lose track of the proper grammatical place, omit words, etc. – Barmar Nov 11 '14 at 19:18
  • Would you offer me a beer? I hope you would. – Robusto Dec 11 '14 at 15:31
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    @Robusto They question is not whether they'd offer you a beer. It's whether they'd offer a beer you! : ) – Araucaria Feb 9 '15 at 17:23
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Whether the quoted sentence—

The 88-year-old, who lives off Hills Road, said: “On our buses it is very common for young people to occupy priority seats and are quite unprepared to offer them those the seats are meant for."

—works satisfactorily and coherently as colloquial British English is not something I can judge; but to a U.S. English speaker (me), it appears to be missing some pieces, which a (U.S.) reader trying to make sense of it must supply. To me, the most confusing part of the original sentence's wording is the string "to offer them those the seats." The wording starts to make sense if you replace "them" with "the seats," and "those" with "the people," yielding this intermediate version of the sentence:

The 88-year-old, who lives off Hills Road, said: “On our buses it is very common for young people to occupy priority seats and are quite unprepared to offer the seats the people the seats are meant for."

At this point we can more clearly see two other problems that wording has: a lack of parallel structure between "to occupy priority seats" and "are quite unprepared to offer the seats," even though each of these phrases evidently is intended to branch out from "young people"; and the absence of a needed preposition in the midst of "the seats the people the seats." We can fix the parallelism problem either by reworking the second phrase to match the first:

...for young people to occupy priority seats and to be quite unprepared to offer the seats...

or we can simply take the two phrases out of parallel altogether:

...for young people to occupy priority seats, but the young people are quite unprepared to offer the seats...

And we can fix the second problem by inserting to at the appropriate place:

"the seats to the people the seats."

This yields a final version of the sentence that correctly identifies the referents for them and those (from among the options "buses," "priority seats," "young people," and "people in need of priority seating"—the last of which options did not appear in the original sentence although it was the intended referent for "those") and supplies the various words missing from the original:

The 88-year-old, who lives off Hills Road, said: “On our buses it is very common for young people to occupy priority seats and to be quite unprepared to offer those seats to the people the seats are meant for."

This revised sentence expresses the sense of the original sentence, I think. But if you were preparing it for publication, you would have to present the 88-year-old's comments as a paraphrase because the wording is no longer a faithful quotation of what the person actually said.

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You are absolutely correct about the missing TO. The sentence is a direct quote from an 88 year old lady who is clearly speaking jargon, as evidenced by the following additional example: In - "occupy priority seat and" They" are unprepared to offer" - THEY is missing.

  • There's nothing even remotely resembling jargon in anything this woman says. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 10 '15 at 23:27

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