Can I say

The man who is tall, his name is John, his grand-father died two years ago.

To first point him out and then add extra information?

  • To preserve the sequence of information "man, tall, name, John, grandfather, died, two years ago", I may write That man, who is tall, is named John. His grandfather died two years ago. – Damkerng T. Jul 28 '15 at 12:27
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    First, you didn't say it--you wrote it, and that, IMHO, makes the punctuation count. The man who is tall is a noun phrase (NP). His name is John is a clause (C). His grand-father died two years ago is another clause. In English, [ NP, C, C. ] is not a good sentence. (However, if you keep learning, sooner or later, you will run into parataxis or asyndeton structures, with or without knowing the terms.) – Damkerng T. Jul 28 '15 at 12:45
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    Ahmad: The way @Damkerng has written it is much preferable to what you initially wrote. You could also use a semi-colon: That tall man is named John; his grandfather died two years ago. – J.R. Jul 28 '15 at 13:19
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    @Ahmad If you're asking whether this sentence would be understood if it was spoken in casual conversation, the answer is yes. However, as everyone points out, it's not grammatically correct, so if you're writing or speaking formally you'll want to fix the errors. – talrnu Jul 28 '15 at 14:56
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    You can certainly hop from clause to clause like that when you're speaking casually, but when writing expository prose you should avoid disconnected clauses. Such sentences treat the reader as though he or she were standing right next to you, able to see you nodding in the direction of the tall man across the room whose grandfather died. But the reader can't see you. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 28 '15 at 15:47

No, you can't say that!

But really, no, it would look clumsy, because it strings three phrases together with commas and no conjunctions. The technical term is "comma splice."

You appear to be attempting to use apposition, setting off extra information in a sentence with punctuation both before and after. That's fine, but when you do that, the rest of the sentence has to work by itself. When you hide your appositive ("his name is John"), what you get is

The man who is tall his grandfather died two years ago.

That doesn't work as a sentence. Here are some ways you might fix it using appositives:

The man who is tall—his name is John—had a grandfather who died two years ago.

The tall man, whose name is John, had a grandfather who died two years ago.

Notice that dashes allow you to break normal sentence structure in a way that commas don't. The trade-off is that dashes should be used much more sparingly than commas.


Possible alternatives, given varying situations (ie, whether recounting after the event, or talking to someone present):

In one sentence (recounting):

The tall man called John had a grandfather who died two years ago.

If you are taking to someone present, it is more natural to split up the sentences into shorter ones (since pairing an adjective with a possessive pronoun is often confusing):

That tall man over there is called John. His grandfather died two years ago.

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    Or: The tall man, John, had a grandfather die two years ago. Similar to the second example. – ps2goat Jul 28 '15 at 21:06

That is not a grammatically correct English sentence because it has multiple subjects and predicates. A sentence should have only one subject and one predicate. You can have compound subjects, like "Bob and Sally", or similarly compound predicates, like "ran and jumped". You can have complex sentences where multiple nouns and/or verbs appear in subordinate clauses, but these have to be structured correctly.

In your example, you COULD say, "The man who is tall, whose name is John, has a grandfather who died two years ago." Or, "The grandfather of the tall man named John died two years ago." Or numerous other variations.

You could break it up into multiple sentences. "The man is tall. His name is John. His grandfather died two years ago."


A couple of other options to consider -- I'm imagining this as dialogue, with one person pointing out John to someone else:

See that tall man? His name is John, and his grandfather died two years ago.

The tall man right there -- his name is John, and his grandfather died two years ago.

These might not be perfectly correct grammatically, but would be natural and understandable informal spoken US English.

  • Thank you, that was what I wanted to hear! as you note I started "Can I say" and described a scenario in which I am pointing out the person. – Ahmad Jul 28 '15 at 16:17
  • but why "and his grandfather", in a natural causal conversation, I expect no and there – Ahmad Jul 28 '15 at 16:28
  • @Ahmad, yes, you could omit the "and" as you say. Either way is fine. – Chad Jul 28 '15 at 16:31

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