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This is an example sentence from the linguistic course "The Ling Space". They've used this sentence to explain that a subject can shift when we change the sentence.

Just like them in the sentence

Dirk and Jake expect to see them in dreams

can be transformed into this them

"Who do Dirk and Jake expect to see them in dreams?"

But what does it mean?

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  • Where did the second sentence come from? It makes no sense. Do you mean "Who do Dirk and Jake expect to see in their dreams?" That would be the question version of the first sentence. – Catija Feb 28 '17 at 17:10
  • @Catija - I think the sentence makes sense in the sense of: "There are some people in the dreams. They will see Dirk and Jake. Who do Dirk and Jake expect these people to be?" – stangdon Feb 28 '17 at 17:20
  • @stangdon so more like "Who is it that's expected to see Dirk and Jake in dreams?" – Catija Feb 28 '17 at 17:22
  • @Catija - Exactly. It's not a very pretty sentence; I think the main problem is that it was intended as a theoretical exercise more than a "live" sentence. – stangdon Feb 28 '17 at 17:27
  • @stangdon I guess I can see that... but, you're right, it's horrible. I guess another option would be "By whom do Dirk and Jake expect to be seen in dreams?" – Catija Feb 28 '17 at 17:30
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It's a very strangely written sentence, and not one you would encounter in everyday English (at least, not with anyone I've ever spoken to).

"Who do Dirk and Jake expect to see them in dreams?"

You could break it down this way: Dirk and Jake expect somebody to dream about them (that is, to see them in dreams). The question is asking who this "somebody" is.

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  • The key fact is that the sentence uses the phrase "see you", isn't it? – Probably Feb 28 '17 at 19:32
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In the second sentence

"Who do Dirk and Jake expect to see them in dreams?"

'them' refers to 'Dirk and Jake'. It implies that Dirk and Jake expect someone else to see Dirk and Jake in that other person's dreams; that is Dirk and Jake expect someone else to dream about Dirk and Jake. The question asks who that someone else is.

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FIRST
Dirk and Jake expect to see them in dreams

In the first sentence, them refers to some unnamed others (other people or things).

Dirk and Jake expect to have a dream about those people or those things.

SECOND
Who do Dirk and Jake expect to see them in dreams?

them in the second sentence could refer back to Dirk and Jake or to some unnamed others.

If them refers to Dirk and Jake, it could be paraphrased:

Who do Dirk and Jake expect to have a dream in which Dirk and Jake appear?

If them refers to some others, it could be paraphrased:

Who do Dirk and Jake expect to have a dream in which [those people or things] appear?

Those others could be "Mike and Ike", say, or two or more nouns (plane and train), or a single plural antecedent noun, supplied in the context: "chickens, zombies, boats, flowers, mountains..."

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