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Writing Tips: Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement



Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement

A pronoun is a word that is used to replace, or stand in for, a noun, a noun phrase, or another pronoun.

Nouns: Jack is helping Jill to carry the pail.

Pronouns: HE is helping HER to carry IT.

Noun Phrase: Going to school is my favorite pastime.

Pronoun: IT is my favorite pastime.

Pronoun: Many brought gifts.

Pronoun: THEY brought gifts.

There are two categories of pronouns: personal pronouns and indefinite pronouns.


Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns refer to people or things. They change form depending on how they are used in sentences. They have three forms:

Subjective

I

we

he

she

they

you

it

Objective

me

us

him

her

them

you

it

Possessive

my

our

his

her

their

your

its


Subjective pronouns
are used as subjects. The subject of a sentence is the word that performs the action of the verb, that is described, or that is acted upon.

  SHE hit Jerry. [SHE performs the action "hit;" SHE is the subject of the sentence.]
  WE are hungry. [WE is described as "hungry;" WE is the subject.]
  IT is being moved. [IT is acted upon; IT is the subject.]


Objective pronouns
are used as direct or indirect objects of a sentence or as the objects of prepositions. The direct object of a sentence receives the action of the verb. The indirect object tells to whom or what, or for whom or what, the action is done (but the words to and for do not appear in front of indirect objects).

  Jerry hit HER. [HER receives the action "hit;" HER is the direct object of the sentence.]
  The boy gave ME the apples. [ME tells to whom the apples were given; ME is the indirect object of the sentence.]
  The child ran to US. [US is the object of the preposition to.]


Possessive pronouns
are used to show possession.

  Jennifer hit HIS car. [HIS shows possession of car.]
  The thief took MY purse. [MY tells whose purse.]
  Mother gave him HIS allowance. [Whose allowance? HIS.]

 


Indefinite Pronouns

Other pronouns don't refer to a definite person or thing. These are called indefinite pronouns:

  ANYBODY can have the books. [ANYBODY does not refer to a specific person.]
  ONE can never be sure what to do. [ONE refers to ANY one, not to one specific person.

Common indefinite pronouns are:

all

another

any

anybody

anyone

anything

both

each

  either

every

everybody

everyone

few

many

more

most

 

much

neither

nobody

no one

several 

some

somebody

someone

 


 

The Pronoun Antecedent

The word for which the pronoun stands is called its antecedent. It usually occurs before the pronoun in the same sentence:

  Elizabeth doesn't have any money with HER. [Elizabeth is the antecedent of the pronoun HER.]
  Jennifer was kidding when SHE hit Jerry. [Jennifer is the antecedent of the pronoun SHE.]
  By the time Ernie arrived, Tom had already bought THEIR tickets." [Ernie and Tom are the antecedents of the pronoun THEIR.]

Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

A pronoun must agree in number with its antecedent. If its antecedent is singular, the pronoun must also be singular; if its antecedent is plural, the pronoun must be plural.  Here are some tips to follow:

  + Antecedents joined by AND require a plural pronoun.


Bill
AND Dennis have THEIR assignments.

Lions AND tigers always defend THEIR young.

Dinah AND I will take care of OUR own arrangements.

  + Antecedents joined by OR and NOR require a pronoun that agrees with the antecedent closest to the pronoun.


Neither the students NOR Professor James brought HER book to class.

Neither Professor James NOR the students brought THEIR books to class.

Either the tiger OR the lions escaped from THEIR cage.

Either the lions OR the tiger escaped from ITS cage.

  + When plural words come between a singular word and its pronoun, a singular pronoun is still required.


Each
of the three men arranged for HIS team to receive uniforms.

One of the dogs is missing from ITS kennel.

  + Most indefinite pronouns require singular possessive pronouns:


Somebody
has been complaining about HIS share.

No one should throw away HER certificate.

  + These indefinite pronouns take plural possessive pronouns: BOTH, FEW, MANY, and SEVERAL.


Both
lost THEIR bids for a championship.

Few retained THEIR leadership beyond five years.

Many have failed on THEIR first attempt.

Several left early to catch THEIR bus.

  + Some indefinite pronouns can require either singular or plural possessive pronouns depending on their meaning in the sentence. Examples are EVERYONE and EVERYBODY.


If EVERYONE is ready, call THEM in for the meeting.

EVERYONE is interested in improving HIS or HER grade in the class.

PLEASE NOTE:  To avoid sexist references or the overuse of the phrases his or her and he or she, change singular nouns that can be either masculine or feminine to their plural form and use the plural pronoun. Or change the structure of the sentence to eliminate the necessity of using a pronoun:

Change: An athletic person won't find HIMSELF OR HERSELF taxed by the course.
To: Athletic people won't find THEMSELVES taxed by this course.

Change: A student should always arrive at HIS OR HER classes on time.
To: Students should always arrive at THEIR classes on time.

Change: Anyone who is interested in going should sign HIS OR HER name on the list.
To: Anyone who is interested in going should sign the list.



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Thursday, 07-Jun-2012 11:14:27 PDT
Thursday, 07-Jun-2012 11:14:27 PDT