What are some examples of awkward sounding but grammatically correct sentences?

  • 5
    For grammarians who don't want to strand prepositions, shouldn't the best sentence construction be: "About whom is this story?" :)
    – Kosmonaut
    Sep 3, 2010 at 13:21
  • I haven't had this much fun with English since I don't know when. Thank you!
    – Mei
    Jan 14, 2011 at 0:17

15 Answers 15


"Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo."

  • 4
    That is truly a bizarre sentence.
    – JohnFx
    Sep 3, 2010 at 15:03
  • What does this mean?
    – kajaco
    Sep 4, 2010 at 14:18
  • in case wikipedia explodes and this site doesn't, and using "bison" as a substitute for buffalo the animal: Bison from the city of Buffalo which intimidate other bison from the city of Buffalo themselves intimidate other bison from the city of Buffalo.
    – Claudiu
    Oct 13, 2010 at 18:20
  • 14
    Rather: Bison from the city of Buffalo which are intimidated by other bison from the city of Buffalo themselves intimidate other bison from the city of Buffalo.
    – Doug
    Oct 15, 2010 at 16:49
  • @Midhat Well, when I wrote that snarky comment this site was in beta...
    – Seamus
    Nov 28, 2010 at 18:23

That that exists exists in that that that that exists exists in.

  • 2
    Nice — unlike the had-had sentence, this doesn't require any additional punctuation! Sep 9, 2010 at 7:37
  • 6
    I can't wrap my head around this one Sep 9, 2010 at 13:20
  • 13
    Brackets may help: (That that exists) exists in (that that (that that exists) exists in). [Or rewriting it, letting X stand for "that that exists": X exists in that that X exists in. X exists in whatever X exists in. X exists where it does.] Sep 10, 2010 at 11:41
  • 7
    @ShreevatsaR: LISP-like English ftw! Oct 13, 2010 at 9:14

Jim opens a cafe selling fish and chips. He has a sign made. It arrives and it says "fishandchips". So he rings up the sign company and says:

You need to put more space between "fish" and "and" and "and" and "chips"
  • 44
    Or rather, he writes the company and says “You need to put more space between fish and and and and and chips” and they write back, saying “in your request, you need to put quotation marks between ‘fish’ and ‘and’ and ‘and’ and ‘and’ and ‘and’ and ‘and’ and ‘and’ and ‘and’ and ‘and’ and ‘and’ and ‘and’ and ‘chips’”.
    – nohat
    Sep 7, 2010 at 16:50
  • 14
    And he writes back saying... oh never mind...
    – Seamus
    Sep 7, 2010 at 17:19

James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher.

  • 6
    If you accept Had as a boy’s name... “In the English test, while Alice had had ‘had had’, Had had had ‘had’; had Had had ‘had had’, Had would have been correct.
    – Timwi
    Sep 9, 2010 at 1:26

As far as awkward-sounding is concerned, I submit there are few sentences spoken in English that sound more awkward than:

Ed had edited it.

This is very hard to say in the rapid flow of conversation, and results in a sound something like:


Try it for yourself, speaking quickly, and you'll see what I mean.

  • 8
    A friend showed me a similar one, "Jiggle it a little, it'll open."
    – Tesserex
    Jun 20, 2011 at 19:37
  • 10
    This reminds me of a (slightly dirty) joke: How do you titillate an ocelot? Oscillate its tit a lot.
    – MT_Head
    Jun 21, 2011 at 5:55
  • @Tesserex I like that! In Yorkshire, how do people say "It is not in the tin"? - Tin tin tin.
    – Mynamite
    Jan 27, 2013 at 2:41

Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which we will not put.
Someone who was not Winston Churchill

  • If you're going to attribute it to Churchill, please get the quotation right.
    – moioci
    Sep 3, 2010 at 22:42
  • 3
    @moioci--If you're going to point out an error, please provide evidence that it's incorrect. I found this link: wsu.edu/~brians/errors/churchill.html
    – kajaco
    Sep 4, 2010 at 14:16
  • 2
    Even though the quotation is apocryphal, the version you quoted is listed under "so scrambled it comes out backward" — the usual story has Churchill complaining about pedants insisting on not ending sentences with a preposition (and deliberately and ironically over-applying their rule), while your version has Churchill recommending the rule himself. Sep 9, 2010 at 7:35
  • 3
    Oh BTW, I don't think this counts as a grammatically correct sentence; it's not grammatical to split "put up" like that. Sep 9, 2010 at 7:36
  • 1
    What did you bring that story I don't like to be read to out of up for?
    – Joe Z.
    Jun 27, 2016 at 14:01


I found John in an unenviable position.

there are the syllables "an", "en", "in", "on", "un" (i.e. all of "aeiou") run together. This makes it a little tricky to say.


How about some semantic awkwardness?

"Colorless green ideas sleep furiously" —Noam Chomsky

  • 9
    For grammatically correct meaningless sentences, I prefer Stephen Fry's sentence in his lovely "Language" sketch: "Hold the newsreader's nose squarely, waiter, or friendly milk will countermand my trousers." Sep 9, 2010 at 7:42
  • There is also the famous nonsense paragraph about "no soap" here: jstor.org/discover/10.2307/… Mar 19, 2012 at 23:01
  • Also: "'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves..." (Jabberwocky) Mar 19, 2012 at 23:03

"The horse raced past the barn fell."

  • My favorite example of sentences that seem difficult to parse
    – livresque
    Feb 6, 2013 at 15:32

The article you linked has a few other examples of such sentences. As it says, "Any word that is both an animate plural noun and a transitive verb will work."


My grandfather's favorite is:

What noise annoys an oyster?

  • 9
    Obviously, a noisy noise annoys an oyster. Jun 23, 2011 at 13:46
  • 1
    Nose knows no snows.
    – endolith
    Mar 12, 2015 at 2:48

Try this one. Who polices the police? Police police police police. Who polices the police police? Police police police police police police. Etc.


I know this one:

Time times time times time squared equals time times time times time times time


You'll probably want to put some punctuation in these:

  • Wouldn't the sentence "I want to put a hyphen between the words Fish and and and and and Chips in my 'Fish and Chips' sign" have been clearer if quotation marks had been placed before Fish, and between Fish and and, and and and and, and and and and, and and and and, and and and and, and and and Chips, as well as after Chips?

  • James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher.


That that is is that that is not is not is that it it is

  • This is not grammatical, as it is missing punctuation. Jun 28, 2012 at 3:47

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