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Cross-Reference and Omission

Clauses are often connected not only because of a meaning-link of the kinds we have looked at previously, but also because they share some content – e.g. they may be talking about the same person:

“His little sister had an umbrella with her. So his little sister didn’t get wet."

These two sentences can be linked into one, in this case with an adverb like 'so', without changing them:

“His little sister had an umbrella with her, so his little sister didn’t get wet."

However, generally we avoid repeating the shared words and content, either

- by cross-reference (using a pronoun such as she;
- by omitting the repeated element(s):

His little sister had an umbrella with her, and so (she) didn’t get wet."

The general rule is (and this will help you when it comes to exercises such as the ones in the section above (Reading): cross-refer and omit wherever you can, except where this leads to ambiguity.

Let’s have a look at how we do this in English. Sometimes one method is suitable, sometimes the other and sometimes both are acceptable.

The personal pronouns he, she, it, they cross-refer to noun phrases, and agree with them in number and/or gender. I also consider the “or” possibility here, because we do have cases where the gender does not matter much. In case we are talking about people, the masculine (he) gender, and the feminine (she) gender is important to apply; however, when we are talking about non-personal things, such as objects, in English, we only have the pronoun 'it', which is the same for both feminine and masculine.

Another linking word is who or somebody, for he/she, but which and something for it.

Mike glanced at hisfeet. They were covered in mud.”
The old piano player kept his distance. He did not call his fans by their first names.”
Thousands of birds were swiftly making their way to Africa.”

Notice that the plural pronouns they, them, etc. substitute not only for plural noun phrases, but also for coordinated singular noun phrases as for example 'Tom and Harry':

“You know Tom and Harry, don’t you? They are both Eve’s friends."

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