Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

Even if pronouns are one of the basic things that we have learned in grammar, there are still some concepts that we still have a difficulty in understanding. One of it is the Pronoun-Antecedent agreement. With the help of this article and the examples cited, you will be able to understand Pronoun-Antecedent agreements better.

 

 

What is a Pronoun?

Before we dive into the main topic of this article, let us first go back to basic and discuss pronouns. You may also see Balanced Sentences — Usage and Examples.

A pronoun is defined as a word that is used to substitute or to stand or to take the place of a noun. You may also see APA Outline Examples in PDF.

Types and List of Pronouns

Below are the nine types of pronouns as well as the pronouns that consist each category:

1. Personal pronouns

  • those associated with a certain person, thing, or group; all except you have distinct forms that indicate singular or plural number. You may also see Complex Sentences – Definition and Examples.
    • Subjective pronouns
      • I, you, he, she, it, we, they, what, who.
    • Objective pronoun
      • me, him, her, it, us, you, them, whom.

2. Possessive Pronouns

3. Demonstrative Pronouns

4. Interrogative Pronouns

5. Relative Pronouns

  • those which refer to nouns mentioned previously, acting to introduce an adjective (relative) clause. You may also see How to Write Short Sentences.
    • who, whom, whose, which, that, what, whatever, whoever, whomever, whichever.

6. Reflexive Pronouns

7. Intensive Pronouns

8. Reciprocal Pronouns

9. Indefinite Pronouns

  • those referring to one or more unspecified objects, beings, or places. You may also see Examples on How to Write a Topic Outline.
    • Anything, everybody, another, each, few, many, none, some, all, any, anybody, anyone, everyone, everything, no one, nobody, nothing, none, other, others, several, somebody, someone, something, most, enough, little, more, both, either, neither, one, much, such.

Pronoun Rules

Here are a few important rules for using pronouns, take note that the pronouns used in the sentence are in bold:

  • Subject pronouns can be used to introduce a sentence
    • For example: We are the champions of the inter-school competition.
  • Subject pronouns can be used in renaming the subject.
    • For example: It was she who chose we give up the fight.
  • Take note that indefinite pronouns do not have antecedents since they can stand alone.
    • For example: No one likes the idea of giving up.
  • Object pronouns can be used to be in the place of the following: direct objects, indirect objects, and objects of prepositions.
    • For example: John talked to him about the discrepancies of the previous administration.
  • Possessive pronouns, as the name suggests, show ownership and does not anymore find the need of including apostrophes.
    • For example: The dog wagged its fluffy tail.

What is an Antecedent?

An antecedent is defined as a noun or pronoun to which another noun or pronoun is referring to and it usually goes before the pronoun.

The word antecedent is derived from Latin, which means “to go before” and its name is also derived from the idea that a pronoun refers to something that has been previously mentioned in the sentence. Keep in mind that an antecedent does not always come before its pronoun despite the term. You may also see Topic Sentences – Definition and Examples.

Hence, if you have a pronoun used in the sentence, it is already understood that you should include an antecedent.

What is a Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement?

Now that you have already understood pronouns and antecedents, let us now discuss what pronoun-antecedent is all about:

The pronoun-antecedent agreement is an agreement between the number, which refers to either singular or plural, and person, which refers to first, second, or third person, with its antecedent.

Rules for Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

Rule 1

A pronoun and its antecedent must agree and it both should be singular or both should be plural.

Singular: Mr. Sy finished checking his students’ test papers.
Plural: The teachers finished checking their students’ test papers.

Singular: The doctor scanned the results of his patient’s physical examination.
Plural: The doctors examined the results of their patients’ physical examinations.

Singular: The child cried his heart out after seeing his parents leave.
Plural: The children cried their hearts out after seeing their parents leave.

Rule 2

There are some indefinite pronouns that have a plural meaning. However, it should be treated as grammatically singular.

Incorrect sentence: Everyone in the office eats their lunch inside the pantry.
Correct singular: Everyone in the office eats his or her lunch inside the pantry.
Correct plural: All of the people in the office eats their lunch inside the pantry.

Incorrect sentence: Somebody has left their bag in the office.
Correct singular: Someone has left his or her bag in the office.

Incorrect sentence: Anyone who leaves their things behind in the office are fined.
Correct singular: Anyone who leaves his or her things behind in the office is fined.

Rule 3

You have to treat generic nouns as singular despite its plural meaning and be careful of using a or any, every, or each.

Incorrect: Every girl in the cheering squad must at least try jumping from the highest platform if they want to be good at it.
Correct:

  • Every girl in the cheering squad must at least try jumping from the highest platform if she want to be good at it.
  • The girls in the cheering squad must at least try jumping from the highest platform if they want to be good at it.

Incorrect: A barista must work well if they want become the manager of the cafe.
Correct:

  • A barista must work well if he or she wants to become the manager of the cafe
  • Baristas must work well if they want to become the manager of the cafe.

Incorrect: Each student must provide their parent’s consent if they want to join the field trip.
Correct

  • Each student must provide his or her parent’s consent if he or she want to join the field trip.
  • Students must provide their parent’s consent if they want to join the field trip.

Rule 4

Treat collective nouns as singular unless the meaning is clearly plural.

Here are some collective nouns you can make use in your sentences:

  • audience
  • club
  • couple
  • family
  • troop
  • class
  • committee
  • crowd
  • jury
  • group

Singular: The group fulfilled its promise
Plural: The group wrote their promises on the wall.

 

Rule 5

When compound antecedents are connected by and, treat it as plural.

Incorrect: Jack and Jill went up the hill where he or she can fetch a pail of water.
Correct: Jack and Jill went up the hill where the can fetch a pail of water.

 

Rule 6

When a compound antecedent is connected by or or nor or by either…or or neither…nor, make sure that you make the pronoun agree with the nearer antecedent.

Example:

  • Neither Jack nor Jill could fetch a pail of water on their own.
  • Either the cat or the dog would ear the leftover food.

 

How To Correct Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement Problems

Here’s an example of an incorrect sentence:

  • When someone is heavily sleeping, they do not want to be roused from it.

1.  Replace the plural pronoun with he or she, or it  (or his or her or its)

  • When someone is heavily sleeping, he or she does does not want to be roused from it.

2.  Make the antecedent plural.

  • When graveyard employees are heavily sleeping, they do not want to be roused from it.

3.  Rewrite the sentence so that there will be no problem of agreement.

  • A graveyard employee who is heavily sleeping does not want to be roused from it.

Additional note:

There are a lot of people who would get confused with who’s because it looks and sounds like a possessive pronoun but actually is not but a contraction of who is. There are also people who would get confused with whose and who’s. Whose is the possessive form of both who and which and it is like the possessive form of who. You may also see Argumentative Essay Examples – PDF.

Here are some sentence examples that would clarify the difference between the two:

Who’s

  • Who’s the one who stole my handkerchief?
  • Who’s winning the game?
  • Who’s the culprit?
  • Who’s playing in the playground?
  • Who’s crying out loud in the classroom?

Whose

  • Whose paper is this, his or hers?
  • So whose papers are those?
  • Tell him whose papers you are going to hand first.
  • He whose expression is tired is the one who studied all night long.
  • Whose child is this?

There are also a lot of people who would get confused with he’s and his but he’s is actually a contraction for he is or he has.

Here are some sentences examples that would clarify between the two:

He’s or She’s

  • He’s going to buy that dog soon.
  • I have no idea what he’s up to.
  • I think he’s up to something.
  • He’s always with me.
  • Do you think he’s going to buy the dog?

There are some sentences that do not mention the sex of the person. This is when finding a pronoun that would agree with its antecedent gets difficult.

This sentence show gender bias: A student must hand in his parent’s waiver before the day of the field trip.

It shows gender bias because a student can be a girl or a boy.

Here are the possible solutions:

  • Pluralize:  Students must hand in their parent’s waiver before the day of the field trip.
  • Use his or her: A student must hand his or her parent’s waiver before the day of the field trip.

A tip:

After writing a sentence, you might want to check whether the pronouns you used in your sentence agree with their antecedents in both number and person. Here are some steps you could do in checking:

  1. First, look for what the antecedent is.
  2. Match the antecedent with a pronoun that is consistent in number.
  3. If the pronoun is singular, the antecedent should be singular.
  4. Identify the person (first, second, or third person) of the antecedent, and then match the pronouns in person.

 

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