Question: Will you please address the use of the following: “The President he is giving a speech,” as opposed to what I was taught – “The President is giving a speech.” I’ve noticed lately that news anchors/readers on both local and national/cable broadcasts are using the first example, and it drives me crazy! THANKS! (Susie in Zionsville)
Answer: Susie, I don’t have an explanation for why newscasters would construct their sentences this way other than – if I may take the liberty of inventing a phrase – a case of “stumbly mouth.” We all remember the trials of high school speech class, and I, for one, am prone to forgive the occasional on-camera tongue slip. I mean, I can barely manage talking to myself.
That being said, we certainly can take a look at why the above construction is wrong. It boils down to pronouns and the rules for their use.
First: What is a pronoun? A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun or a noun phrase. The noun being substituted for is called the “antecedent.”
To quickly illustrate the point, an example: “Ann grabbed the ball and then quickly ran it in for a touchdown.” The pronoun “it” takes the place of its antecedent “ball.”
Pronouns have a lot of uses, but the most common one is to avoid repetition. This is the case in our example sentence. Without a pronoun, we would have: “Ann grabbed the ball and then quickly ran the ball in for a touchdown.” Is it grammatically incorrect? No. Does it sound awkward and repetitive? You betcha.
Pronouns come into play when we want to refer back to a noun in a later clause or phrase. I’m having trouble coming up with an occasion in which it would be appropriate to use a subject pronoun like “he” to refer back to an antecedent within the same phrase, i.e. “the president he is…” Why is this? Because the pronoun can effectively be read as its antecedent, meaning the sentence would be, “The president the president is giving a speech.” That takes repetition to a whole new level.
You might see a noun and a pronoun right next to each other if they are separated by a comma, though, again, they would not be part of the same phrase or clause. Example: “Ann, she is my friend, scored a touchdown.” The main clause is “Ann scored a touchdown.” “She is my friend” serves as a parenthetical dependent clause.
In conclusion: Is, “The president he is giving a speech,” correct? No. Do I think it’s a case of “stumbly mouth?” Yes. Am I overly enthusiastic about using the phrase “stumbly mouth?” Possibly.