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The ability to echo words and still make a meaningful statement has always bugged me. Take this example sentence:

"Thank you for bringing this issue to my attention. We will take care of this this afternoon."

Is this sentence grammatically correct? Also, is there a technical term for the echoed 'this'?

  • 4
    Yes, it's fine. The two different 'this's have different necessary functions. – Mitch Jun 5 '12 at 15:52
  • Just imagine if we were discussing the grammaticality of two different sentences with the "doubled this". We would be able to say. "This this this is correct, while that this this is not." And then you might talk about my sentence here... – Jim Jun 5 '12 at 16:03
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    @Jim: That "that that" that that book has should just read "that." – J.R. Jun 6 '12 at 1:17
  • The first 'this' will typically receive more stress in speech, or a slight pause for contrast will be added (though a comma to indicate this in writing would be considered poor style). – Edwin Ashworth Aug 16 '19 at 17:40
10

You could avoid the echo by saying we will take care of it this afternoon as you have established the it in the previous sentence.

I believe the term is doubled words.

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  • A sensible comment (the first sentence) – but not an answer. And 'doubled words' is a nonce expression used by Fogerty, not a standard phrase (Lane uses the string totally differently). – Edwin Ashworth Aug 16 '19 at 17:41
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Sure it's grammatically correct. There are many cases where a word can occur twice in a row and make complete sense, especially when the word is being used with two different definitions. "After fixing twenty mistakes, Sally had had enough." "Bob saw that that was not the right answer." "I got lost because I turned right too soon, but then I circled around and made the right right turn." And of course if you try hard you can come up with crazy examples, like the ever-popular "Buffalo" sentence. (I know that was quoted on here somewhere.)

In most cases where a word is used twice in a row people read it without noticing. If you think in a given case it might be confusing, then sure, find a way to re-word it.

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In general, I recommend avoiding use of non-determinate "this" as a pronoun and instead replace it with a determiner, "this what". In your example, replace the potentially ambiguous "this" with "this issue":

"Thank you for bringing this issue to my attention. We will take care of this issue this afternoon."

Doing so eliminates the double "this" and avoids the potential for "this" to refer to anything, including the potential interpretation, "We will take care of my attention this afternoon."

See this article for a more in-depth explanation on why an ambiguous "this" pronoun can be dangerous and should be avoided.

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