"The best footballers, the best musicians, they all start early."

Is this sentence okay? Or is there a way I should rephrase it to make it grammatically correct?

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  • 1
    I would personally add a semi-colon after 'musicians' but then I am an old fashioned fuddy-duddy. – Nigel J Jan 6 '18 at 14:23
  • What does punctuation have to do with morphology or syntax? – tchrist Jan 6 '18 at 17:06
  • In my view, the strength of different punctuation marks is a valid issue to consider in determining whether a comma can do the job that a writer sets for it. Here, I think that either a colon ("The best footballers, the best musicians: they all start early") or an em dash ("The best footballers, the best musicians—they all start early") would do a better job of identifying the crucial split in the sense of the sentence than a comma would. Partly this is because commas do so many things (for example, establishing the paralellism between "footballers" and "musicians" earlier in the sentence). – Sven Yargs Jan 11 '18 at 22:03

Your sentence would have more impact using a colon:

The best footballers, the best musicians: they all start early.

Another choice might be an em dash, though that is usually used for interpolations or afterthoughts.

The best footballers, the best musicians — they all start early.


I would rephrase your sentence: "All the best footballers and musicians start early." to remove superfluous words and get straight to the point.

"footballers and musicians" (or "musicians and footballers", if you prefer) is the compound subject which together may be modified by both the adjective "all" and the adjective phrase "the best".

http://www.k12reader.com/term/adjective-clause/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adjective_phrase

https://webapps.towson.edu/ows/moduleSVAGR.htm (Compound nouns can function as a “compound subject.”)

"Do not use both a noun and a pronoun to perform the same grammatical function in a sentence." (A Writer's Reference (Hackers, Sommers) 7th ed., p.247)

So you need to choose between the pronoun, "they", and the compound subject, "footballers and musicians", to improve the grammar of your exampled sentence.

  • 1
    So much for turning a bit of rhetorical drama into blah. – KarlG Jan 6 '18 at 15:21
  • 1
    I fully appreciate drama, of course. But the question was about grammar, and deserving of a respectful answer. – Bread Jan 6 '18 at 23:19

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