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Be the following sentence:

Sometimes he (Martin) saw Mr. Clayton while the/this latter was looking over the account books he (Martin) had written before.

If I replace “the/this latter” with “he”, Mr. Clayton, it will probably be confused with the first “he”, Martin, and also with the last, Martin again, “he”.

Then, my question is: can I remove “the/this latter” using only “this”?

Additionally, is there another option than “the/this latter”?

Thanks in advance for any help.

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    This latter is not a thing. Maybe: Sometimes he saw Mr. Clayton looking over the account books that had been written before. Jan 31 at 4:28
  • You don’t refer to people with the pronoun this unless you mean to treat them with contempt. The effect is objectization because this is normally used only for inanimate objects. Jan 31 at 4:47
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In situations where there are two or more people for whom the same personal pronoun is appropriate (usually two people of the same gender) and the linguistic relationship is complex, as in your example (your first use of "he" refers to Martin, your second to Mr Clayton and the third to Martin again) the best solution is to use either the names or descriptions of the protagonists rather than attempt to disambiguate the pronouns. To use descriptions you could call Mr Clayton "the manager" and Martin "our hero".

Using names would give:

Sometimes Martin saw Mr Clayton while Mr Clayton was looking over the account books Martin had written before.

Using the suggested descriptions would give:

Sometimes Martin saw Mr Clayton while the manager was looking over the account books our hero had written before.

In this case I think the descriptions work better but in other contexts repeating the names is better. Of course you can mix the solutions as well giving things like

Sometimes Martin saw Mr. Clayton while the manager was looking over the account books Martin had written before.

This is often the best solution of all.

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  • You would however need to make it clear somehow that Mr Clayton is the manager. These constructions can sound as though there are three people mentioned instead of two.
    – Peter
    Jan 31 at 9:10
  • @Peter I agree, but Mr Clayton and Martin would have to have been introduced as characters earlier in the text or the sentence would be pretty meaningless anyway. I was only guessing that Mr Clayton was Martin's manager, he could have been the business owner, a member of a different department, even a customer or a random person off the street. Without the full text it is impossible to tell.
    – BoldBen
    Feb 2 at 6:03
  • You are right, @BoldBen. The role of each character was described earlier in the text. Your proposed solutions were useful to me. Thanks!
    – Roberto
    Feb 2 at 22:02

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