What does the second 'they' stand for from a grammar point of view?

I like dogs, they like hoops, they are my friends.

  • Though sentences can theoretically be of infinite length, stringing together independent clauses which are not semantically closely related into single sentences is unacceptable on grounds other than grammaticality. I'd say this is the case here. The comma splices correspondingly seem unjustifiable. // This has been covered before on ELU, but it is standard (in a well-constructed sentence) for the antecedent of a pronoun to be the nearest earlier NP that makes sense as an antecedent. Dec 27, 2021 at 12:13

1 Answer 1


"They" can only refer to "dogs".

The written sentence contains a writing error. There are three independent clauses. There should either be three sentences, or three clauses joined with semi-colons, or three clauses joined with conjunctions.

I like dogs. They like hoops. They are my friends.

There is no grammar rule for working out what a pronoun refers to. You always have to understand in context. In this (artificial) example there are two possible plural nouns that "they" could mean: "dogs" and "hoops". Grammatically "they" could refer to either. But "hoops" are not alive and so can't be friends. On the other hand, dogs are friendly animals. So "they" certainly means "dogs".

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