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A lawyer has filed a court document listing issues to be determined in an upcoming trial. He has phrased one issue as follows:

Did Judge <X> err in not accepting the "new evidence" following the delivery of his decision that there was there insufficient evidence to justify a trial in accordance with s 26(2) of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011;

(Judge's name redacted, bold emphasis added)

At first I thought that the second "there" was just a typo. But I decided to search the web for exactly the same phrase and found two other occurrences in similar context. Which has made me think: what if this is not a typo but rather some weird legalese?

So, is it a typo or not?

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  • Might be realated to english.stackexchange.com/questions/69697/… ?
    – bookmanu
    Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 11:32
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    perhaps the second "there" refers to evidence in the decision to not to justify a trial in accordance with s 26(2) of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011;?
    – bookmanu
    Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 11:34
  • @bookmanu I wonder then how the meaning would change if there was no the second "there", if at all?
    – Greendrake
    Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 11:36
  • yes, I guess you're right. IMO the meaning wouldn't change, although the second "there" may have been used for emphasis - the lawyer obviously disagrees with the judge's view and probably wants to draw attention to the situation "there"
    – bookmanu
    Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 11:42
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    @Greendrake The first there is a meaningless dummy subject used in existential sentences. The second there is a deictic word indicating location (contrasting with here). The locative there has switched places with the phrase insufficient evidence for emphasis. A more natural phrasing is ... that there was insufficient evidence there to justify ... Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 11:44

1 Answer 1

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In

that there was there insufficient evidence to justify a trial

There is an adverb in both cases.

The first there is the existential "there" as in "There is a cat in the garden." It is used only as an emphatic confirmation of the existence of a cat. "There is a cat in the garden." = A cat is in the garden.

(Note that "there" is not the subject of "There is a cat in the garden." because we also say "There are cats in the garden." (This is an example of the subject and verb being inverted after a fronting adverb/adjective: it was commoner in earlier English e.g. "Dearly did I love her and deep was my sorrow.")

The second there is the locative "there" = at that place: e.g. "I lived there when I was a child."

that there was there insufficient evidence to justify a trial =

that insufficient evidence to justify a trial was at or in the place or thing indicated.

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  • Hmm. The subject of the sentence is indeed the word there. However, because it is a meaningless dummy pronoun, the verb inherits its number from the right hand side NP. Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 11:48
  • @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. Believing there to be capable of being the subject of a verb is common enough mistake. In "There are cats in the garden." the word order is inverted following a fronting adverb: Adv - V - S - adjunct." "Dearly did I love her.", etc.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 18:58
  • Actually, believing existential there to be an adverb is an extremely common mistake. Verbs which have subjects with no meaningful number often inherit their agreement from their complements. Subjects, and in particular pronominal ones, have many other properties apart from verbs agreeing with them. For example, they invert with auxiliaries in subject auxiliary inversion environments, they appear in question tags, they occur to the left of the verb, they occur with coordinated verb phrases and they are still present when the verb phrase has been reduced to just one word. Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 22:50
  • As seen in the following: (1) "Has there been a banana in this cupboard?" (2) "There's a banana in the cupboard, isn't there?" (3) "There is a problem". (4) "There [is a problem] and [always has been a problem]." (5) A: "Is there a problem?" B: "There is". Yada yada yada yada .... [I won't bug you with the multitudinous reasons why existential there demonstrates none of the properties of being an adverb!] Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 23:15
  • [I won't bug you with the multitudinous reasons why existential there demonstrates none of the properties of being an adverb!] Good! I have read or heard them all, and none are credible. Verbs which have subjects with no meaningful number often inherit their agreement from their complements.... Amazing...
    – Greybeard
    Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 10:13

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