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Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement


Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

Number, Gender, and Person

A pronoun should agree in number, gender, and person with its antecedent.


Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement Reminder

A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun or another pronoun. An antecedent is the noun or pronoun to which a pronoun refers.

  • The shrub grew a new branch to replace the one it lost. [Shrub is the antecedent of the pronoun it.]

Singular pronouns refer to singular antecedents. Plural pronouns refer to plural antecedents.

  • The snake shed its skin. [Its refers to the singular antecedent snake.] 
  • They raised their hands. [Their refers to the plural antecedent They.]

Some singular pronouns indicate gender and may be masculine, feminine, or neuter, depending on the gender of the antecedent.

  • Carl’s notes are in his locker. [The masculine pronoun his refers to the masculine antecedent Carl.] 
  • Tell the uniformed woman because she is in charge. [The feminine pronoun she refers to the feminine antecedent woman.] 
  • Is the camera itself also voice activated? [The neuter pronoun itself refers to the neuter antecedent camera.]

Person indicates whether a pronoun refers to the one(s) speaking (first person), the one(s) spoken to (second person), or the one(s) spoken of (third person).

FIRST PERSON I, me, my, mine, myself, we, us, our, ourselves 
SECOND PERSON you, your, yours, yourself, yourselves 
THIRD PERSON he, she, it, they, him, her, them, his, hers, its, their, theirs, himself, herself, itself, themselves

Compound Antecedents

Use a plural pronoun to refer to two or more antecedents joined by and.

  • The lizard and the snake flicked their tongues in the breeze. [Lizard and snake form a compound antecedent joined by and. The plural pronoun their refers to the nouns in the compound antecedent.]
Use a singular pronoun to refer to two or more singular antecedents joined by or or nor.

  • Grandma or she brought her notebook along. [Grandma and she form a compound antecedent joined by or. The singular pronoun her refers to the nouns in the compound antecedent.] 
  • Neither Paul nor Willie left his umbrella in the car. [Paul and Willie form a compound antecedent joined by nor. The singular pronoun his refers to the nouns in the compound antecedent.]

Indefinite Pronouns

Pronouns must agree in number, gender, and person with their antecedents.

Some indefinite pronouns are singular, some are plural, and some can be either singular or plural, depending on how they are used in the sentence.

The following antecedents are singular: anybody, anyone, anything, each, either, everybody, everyone, everything, neither, nobody, no one, nothing, one, somebody, someone, and something.

  • No one brought a lunch with him or her. [The singular antecedent No one may be either masculine or feminine, so both masculine and feminine singular pronouns are used.] 

Clues in the sentence often reveal whether these singular antecedents are masculine, feminine, or neuter. 

  • Each of the girls brought her ballet slippers. [Each is the singular antecedent of her. Girls shows that Each is feminine.]
The following antecedents are plural: both, few, many, and several

  • Few brought lunches with them. [The plural pronoun them refers to Few.] 

Use a singular or a plural pronoun, depending on the meaning of the sentence, to refer to any of the following indefinite pronouns: all, any, more, most, none, and some. 

  • All of the pages have corrections. Please revise them. [All refers to the plural noun pages. Therefore, the plural pronoun them agrees.] 
  • All of the report has corrections. Please revise it. [All refers to the singular noun report. Therefore, the singular pronoun it agrees.]

Relative Pronouns

The gender and number of the relative pronoun that, which, or who are determined by the gender and number of the word to which it refers—its antecedent.

  • Cedric, who rebuilt his car, will drive there. [Who refers to a singular, masculine antecedent, Cedric. Therefore, the masculine pronoun his agrees with who.] 
  • The chairs that have had their cushions cleaned are in the dining room. [That refers to a plural antecedent, chairs. Therefore, the plural pronoun their agrees with that.]

Mr. ‏El-Sayed Ramadan ‎ ‎


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