Which word is they referring to in the following sentence?

Children make circles because they are perfect.

Is it referring to Children or circles? And why?

  • 3
    The sentence is ambiguous: without context we can't be sure from the grammar which meaning is intended. I think "perfect" more likely applies to the circles, solely on the basis of which makes more sense.
    – TypeIA
    Jan 19 at 16:47
  • 3
    children can't be perfect by definition ;) but circles mathematically are Jan 19 at 16:48

Grammatically, "they" could refer to either "children" or "circles", but as the comments suggest, "circles" makes much more sense. The only way to be sure, however, is through additional context. Consider a sentence with the same form, but different content:

Angels make prophecies because they are perfect.

Now "they" seems more likely to refer to "Angels".

In the general case:

Xs make Ys because they are perfect.

there is no way to tell the referent of "they" without additional context.

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