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My questions:

Please answer these two questions. There will be an example explaining why I ask these two questions. After you reading the example, please answer these two questions (1) and (2).

(1) Can a pronoun refer to a noun wherever the noun first appears as long as the pronoun can be understood by the reader and listener?

(2) Is the use of pronouns restricted by grammar structures?


Example:

Friend: Why do you support the movement?

Me: The movement can help alleviate the problem which women have for them.

The bold part "which women have" is a relative clause.

"for them" I wrote here is not a part of the relative clause, and I want the word "them" to refer to "women".


What I think about the example and how it makes me ask the two questions (1) and (2).

This whole sentence just sounds awkward to me. I wonder if it is because there are rules saying that pronouns cannot be used in or refer to some grammar structures such as relative clauses, etc.

However, this idea doesn't make sense to me although I had never really thought about it before.

So, please allow me to repeat my question:

(1) Can a pronoun refer to a noun wherever the noun first appears as long as the pronoun can be understood by the reader and listener?

(2) Is the use of pronouns restricted by grammar structures?


By the way,

I have asked a similar question on English Learner Stack. I appreciate the help I got there, but it seems that people didn't answer my questions directly. I think it was my fault that I didn't make my question clear enough. I hope this time the questions I am asking is unambiguous.

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    By for them, do you mean on the women's behalf? If so, it seems an unnecessary part of the sentence. Or, if you really want to include it, say alleviate the women's problem for them. – Kate Bunting Jun 19 at 10:55
  • Your problem is syntax and context rather than the pronoun. Thus "For women, the movement can help alleviate the problem that they have". is far more idiomatic because."For women" is a free modifier (= in the case of women) and modifies the whole clause. If the prior context concentrates on "women" then "For them, the movement can help alleviate the problem that women have", and "women would be emphatic. (Note I have changed "which" to "that" to give the meaning of a defining clause.) – Greybeard Jun 19 at 11:36
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    Does this answer your question? What is it called when an antecedent noun follows the pronoun? example given: 'Although he loved fishing, Paul went skating with his girlfriend." Here he is a cataphoric reference to Paul.' //// Of course all words can only appear in licensed slots. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 19 at 12:01
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    The answer to your first question (as restated in your comment) is "Yes". But the problem is that careless writers may not make the antecedent clear. See this article for example: webapps.towson.edu/ows/…. As to question 2, the answer is "No", assuming that by grammar strutcures you mean clauses and phrases. – Shoe Jun 22 at 9:06
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    You certainly put a lot more effort into your question than many do on this site. In fact the formatting is exemplary. And in any case the main purpose of the comments is to seek clarification if the question is not immediately clear. I look forward to further questions from you. – Shoe Jun 22 at 11:03
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Me: The movement can help alleviate the problem which women have for them.

Notes

  1. If I saw the above, I would immediately wonder who "them" refers to. It clearly isn't the women.

  2. We can say (a) I have a problem with X, or (b) X is a problem for me but we cannot say (c) I have a problem for me.

  3. If you want to refer back to "women", you must use "themselves". For example, you could say, Women respect themselves but you cannot say Women have a problem for X

  4. Note that we can have a problem "with" something. For example:

Friend: Do you like motorbikes?

Me: No, I have a problem with them. They are too noisy. ("them" refers back to motorbikes)

  1. Another possibility

Friend: You seem unhappy. What's the matter.

Me: I have a problem with myself.

Friend: What do you mean?

Me: Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. I speak before I think and end up offending people.

In the above, myself refers back to "I" but it means that "I" am the problem.

I hope this helps.

| improve this answer | |
  • Ok, now I know the reason why the example sentence sounds wrong is because of the unidiomatic use of "for them." What do you think about my first two questions? They are: (1) Can a pronoun refer to a noun wherever the noun first appears as long as the pronoun can be understood by the reader and listener? (2) Is the use of pronouns restricted by grammar structures? – vincentlin Jun 22 at 3:10

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