Sometimes dreams are terrifying, but they are usually a collection of scattered, confused thoughts. If you dream about something that is worrying you, you may wake up exhausted sweating, and with a rapid heartbeat. Dreams have positive effects on our lives.

In this paragraph, what does "they" refer to? In my opinion, as a pronoun rule, it refers to "dreams". But ,in the sense of context, it could refer to "terrifying dreams". Please share your opinions with me.

1 Answer 1


An interesting question . .. No, nobody would take they to refer to terrifying dreams, for two reasons:

  1. There is no noun phrase terrifying dreams present for they to refer to. A predication, X is Y, is quite different from a noun phrase Y X.

  2. But entails a contrast between the two clauses it joins. In this case, sometimes and usually provide the terms which distinguish the contrasting elements:

     Sometimes dreams    are terrifying

    but usually they are a collection

    We are talking about dreams as they appear on different occasions; the second first clause describes dreams as they sometimes appear, which is different than they appear usually.

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