Do English speakers say something like "he pushed him back", even if they know who this "he" and who that "him" is, referring to two different people with the same pronoun? Or would they say something like "he pushed that guy" or "that guy pushed him"?

  • In what context? If Sam pushed John, and then John pushed Sam then I might well say he pushed him back. He and him lack antecedents in the sentence, but with context the subjects may be inferred. – Elliott Frisch Feb 24 '16 at 2:05
  • Any context. What I'm asking is that if anyone would refer to two different people with just one pronoun. The context doesn't really matter here. You can think of anything. – Vun-Hugh Vaw Feb 24 '16 at 2:08
  • 2
    Then the answer is yes. – Elliott Frisch Feb 24 '16 at 2:19
  • 1
    Yes, in the right context, where the antecedents of the two pronouns were reasonably obvious, that sentence might easily be said. One does need to use care with such constructions, though, especially when editing the text you wrote yesterday, as it's easy to forget how much it all depends on context. – Hot Licks Feb 24 '16 at 2:37
  • 1
    So true. If Jim saw John and he told him that he had to leave town, we're in trouble. – Rob_Ster Feb 24 '16 at 2:50

Yes. It's common when someone's telling a story out loud, for example. Context, cadence, and emphasis can all help clarify the meaning. But it's common enough in writing too, when the meaning is clear from context, as in this New York Times article:

Mr. Shultz said the President was ''astonished'' when he told him about the plan in December.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.