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Ken runs faster than Taku. But Taku swims faster than Ken. Yuji runs as fast as Taku and he swims the fastest of the three.

Who does "he" refer to? I want to say Yuji but it could be Taku if you stressed the words differently. Any rules on this?

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    Given the mention of "the three", I'm pretty sure we need more context to answer this. – Nathan Tuggy Feb 10 '16 at 1:57
  • Sorry, previous sentences are 'Ken runs faster than Taku.' and 'But Taku swims faster than Ken.' – David Hallman Feb 10 '16 at 2:53
  • At this point, if there is ambiguity remaining, that can be part of an answer rather than a close reason. – snailcar Feb 10 '16 at 9:09
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In your sentence

Yuji runs as fast as Taku and he swims the fastest of the three.

he would generally be understood to be Yuji because of parrallel construction of the two main clauses with Yuji being the subject of both.

Changing your sentence to

Yuji runs as fast as Taku, who swims the fastest of the three.

would change the emphasis of swimming to Taku

  • I agree with this answer. While it's the clearest and most obvious interpretation that "he" is Yuji in this case, it's one of those things where English is just ambiguous. If I said, "My friend Bob is stronger than Mike Tyson, and he's the greatest boxer of all time", he probably refers to Mike Tyson, but that's something you just have to infer from context, since Mike Tyson is known as a great boxer and Bob is not. – stangdon Feb 10 '16 at 15:53
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This sentence is made up of two independent clauses joined by the conjunction "and".

Yuji runs as fast as Taku

Yuji is the subject. "As fast as Taku" is a prepositional phrase that modifies the verb "runs".

He swims the fastest of the three.

"He" is the subject, "the fastest" is a superlative adverb that modifies the verb "swims", and "of the three" is a prepositional phrase that modifies "he".

A simple way to rephrase this sentence is, "Yuji runs as fast as Taku, and of the three, he swims the fastest."

There is no way to definitely state who "he" refers to, but in context, it refers to Yuji.

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