but they were much more severely

Jeepster

Senior Member
The raiding army had not, by God’s grace, greatly afflicted the English people to a very great extent, but they were much more severely afflicted during those three years by the mortality of cattle and men

John Haywood. Northman: the Vikihg Saga

they army or they people? and how to decide which??
 
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I agree with perpend. We generally think a pronoun refers to the nearest noun, as you say.
    However, we also use logic to work out the meaning. In this case, it is logical to think 'they' refers to the people. We would understand 'they' in a different sentence differently.

    The army did not hurt the people, but they did trample the flowers as they marched through.

    In that sentence, we would understand 'they' to refer to the army, because the sentence makes more sense that way.
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    There is a/the clue earlier in the sentence: "... greatly afflicted the English people ...".

    And then comes: "... but they were much more severely afflicted ..."

    EDIT: Cross-posted with Cagey.
     

    Jeepster

    Senior Member
    I agree with perpend. We generally think a pronoun refers to the nearest noun, as you say.
    However, we also use logic to work out the meaning. In this case, it is logical to think 'they' refers to the people. We would understand 'they' in a different sentence differently.

    The army did not hurt the people, but they did trample the flowers as they marched through.

    In that sentence, we would understand 'they' to refer to the army, because the sentence makes more sense that way.
    Thank you)
     
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