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Would you consider the following sentence natural (as in something a native might say, not necessarily something that is standard):

These are people that I'm not sure if are really bad, or if I just don't trust them

It sounds pretty ok to my ears, but it's weird to me that we use "them" in the relative clause to refer back to the same thing the relative pronoun refers to. On the other hand, we can say that we already "spent" the reference to use it as a subject ("* are really bad"), so now we can't use it again in an object role ("or if I just don't trust *", omitting the them), and it's ok we refer to it again as "them".

What do you think? Is this perfectly fine and even standard (if awkward)?


  • oglop
  • The Legend

    • 3982

    • August 25, 2011, 07:24:54 pm
    • Seoul
i wouldn't even say "These are people that I'm not sure if are really bad" is grammatically correct


  • VanIslander
  • Moderator LVL 1

    • 1899

    • June 02, 2011, 10:12:19 am
    • Seogwipo, Jeju Island
    more
These are people that I'm not sure if are really bad, or if I just don't trust them
1. It may sound okay because verbal use by native speakers often butchers grammar, especially when what we want to say changes mid-breath. As a piece of writing, it is clearly bad grammar.
2. There is a subject missing after "if". Take "if" out.
3. Keep "if" but add right after it: "they".
Or
4. Move "I'm not sure if" to the beginning and change "these are people that" to "these people".

So,... the result would be:
1. Tell your student it's okay to say but not to write, unless quotation marks are used.
2. These are people that I'm not sure are really bad, or...
3.  These are people that I'm not sure if they are really bad, or...
4. I'm not sure if these people are really bad, or...


  • terrellpena
  • Newgookin

    • 1

    • March 24, 2020, 09:22:12 am
    • North Bergen, NJ
Thank you, great help.