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I have a question about the use of pronouns.

Can a pronoun represent a noun first appearing in a relative clause?

Can a pronoun represent a noun first appearing as an object (like the object of a verb or preposition, etc)?

Or a pronoun can always represent a noun wherever the noun first appears as long as it precede the pronoun?

Example 1:

Friend: Why do you support the movement?

Me: The movement can alleviate the problem [which women have] for them.

The bold part "which women have" is the relative clause.

Can the "them" represent the word "women", which is in the adjective clause?

Is it grammatically correct to use a pronoun like that?

Example 2:

(1) I will come back from the store with potatoes in my basket and get rid of them for cash afterward.

(2) I will amass potatoes and get rid of them for cash afterward.

Can the "them" represent the word "potatoes"?

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    When they arrested him, John was wearing a tuxedo. That's two pronouns in the relative clause, and nobody is likely to care much if they are never explicitly referenced by preceding or following text. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 13 at 13:18
  • Yes, I am aware that a pronoun can be in different places. However, why does my example 1 sound awkward? Is it because it breaks grammar rules? or the "for them" is grammatically correct but just kind of redundant? – vincentlin Jun 13 at 13:21
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    I don't understand your first example at all. Why would you want to (ungrammatically) append the relative clause for them in the first place? Sounds a bit like Anne Elk's Theory on Brontosauruses - which from memory (and it is 50 years ago now! :) she introduced by saying This is my theory, which I have, and which is mine. Damned good theory it was though! All the evidence so far indicates that she was absolutely right! – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 13 at 13:55
  • I mean the first example can be simply rewritten as "The movement can alleviate the problem which women have." But I want to know whether it is correct to say "The movement can alleviate the problem which women have for them(representing the women)." On the other hand, I am curious why It sounds awkward. Is it because the pronoun cannot represent a noun first appearing in an adjective sentence, or because the use of "for them" in this case is kind of redundant? By the way, can a pronoun always represent a noun wherever the noun first appears? – vincentlin Jun 13 at 14:44
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    Okay, I'll give you an answer for you. It's not just "redundant" - it's non-idiomatically redundant. In many other contexts there's nothing at all "undesirable" about including redundant elements, but in your "women's problem" example it's simply unacceptable. But I don't think this is anything to do with pronouns. It's just the same problem with [something which] can alleviate the problem which women have for women. But, syntactically speaking there's nothing particularly odd about a solution which can alleviate for women the problem which they have. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 13 at 15:13
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+50

Example 1:

Antecedeing back to the relative pronoun it only works when a -self pronoun is used.

The movement can alleviate the problem which women have for themselves.

Laura didn't want to talk about the money which was itself already spent. (itself="the money").

I'm going to take the weapon away which he's trying to hurt himself with. (itself=whoever he is after which).

Exmple 2:

Yes, you can do this. This is normal pronoun usage. If there is ambiguity then you might not want to use a pronoun, but whether it is or not depends on context and how well the speaker/writer believes the listener/reader is engaged.

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  • Two little questions: (1) The use of pronouns doesn't have anything to do with grammar structures like being a relative clause, being a subject or object, etc, right? (2) A pronoun can always refer to a noun wherever the noun first appears as long as the context is understandable to the listener? Sorry if this reply sounds repetitive to you, but I am trying to ensure I get a correct understanding of what you said. – vincentlin Jun 17 at 3:25
  • @vincentin: In your comment, you're re-asking a question which has already been answered by the answer above. You ask: "A pronoun can always refer to a noun whenever the noun appears first ..." No. If the noun is the subject of the sentence, you sometimes have to use the pronoun myself, himself, herself, itself, etc. For example, if you say Mary made a necklace for her, the pronoun her cannot refer to Mary. If you want to refer to Mary, you have to say "Mary made a necklace for herself". – Peter Shor Jun 19 at 12:12
  • And to answer your first question, whether you use her or herself does depend on grammar structures. For example, we say She realized that they wouldn't cook for her, but She realized that she would have to cook for herself. – Peter Shor Jun 19 at 12:20

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