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In the following sentence, the 'it' in the bold part should refer to Acid Grassland and the 'there' should refer to the 'roughs' (rough areas on a golf course).

"Frighteningly, some of the dangers lie on the Golf Course where there is generally far better management than elsewhere. The roughs support some of the best remaining areas of Acid Grassland but it won’t be long before it is gone there too."

I think it is clear what the sentence means, but is it grammatically correct? The subject in the first clause is the roughs, so simplistically, the 'it' might refer to that.

How does one analyze the sentence and is there a better way of expressing it, if wrong?

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    Everything you wrote is right, and the sentence still takes more than one read to make sure of getting it for sure. There's also another it after but. I'd try this: "Acid Grassland, which before long will be gone there too." Mar 22, 2021 at 14:27
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    The antecedent for it probably exists in a prior sentence: Acid Grassland is diminishing. The roughs support some of the best remaining areas of Acid Grassland, but it won’t be long before it is gone there too. Mar 22, 2021 at 14:36
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    @Lambie: There isn't a proper antecedent for the second it within that sentence. Mar 22, 2021 at 14:53
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    @Lambie: areas would = they Mar 22, 2021 at 15:38
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    @Lambie 'antecedent' has to be actual words, not the idea they convey (however accurately). 'Acid Grassland' (I'm not sure whether some knowledgeable body has awarded such an environment capitalisation) could be the antecedent, as is seen by replacing with 'desert' (and ignoring everything but the grammar involved). Mar 22, 2021 at 17:48

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It is, as you say, clear what is being said. But I do have doubts about the grammar in one respect. Just as the noun phrase The Roughs (which I have corrects to what I assume is the name of part of the North Downs in Hampshire) is singular and so ought to be the subject of the singular verb supports, so areas <of acid grassland (surely lower case?)>, being plural, should be followed by the plural pronoun they and the plural verb are.

You could easily avoid the main dilemma by concluding:

...acid grassland, which before long will be lost from there also.

Alternatively, if you feel the emphasis of but is too important, and I can see the merit of this,

... but it will not be long before the acid grassland is lost form there also.

If neither of these will do, you can get away '"before it is lost...". It is only pedants like me that will notice, and even I would not have noticed without your drawing my attention to it (or them).

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  • The roughs means the rough areas on golf courses, as noted by the OP in the first sentence. No cap, plural agreement: The roughs support . . . Mar 22, 2021 at 17:48
  • @TinfoilHat Ah, of course (pardon the pun). In that case, why would you not replace 'there' with 'these'? I'll delete my answer, which you have read for what it was worth.
    – Tuffy
    Mar 22, 2021 at 17:55
  • Thanks. Both of your alternatives are improvements in readability (though I don't really like the repetition of acid grassland). Mar 22, 2021 at 21:42
  • @ William Morris You're welcome: I'm sure you can think of a better alternative.
    – Tuffy
    Mar 22, 2021 at 23:58

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