Subject-Pronoun Agreement Grammar Tutorial Part One Understanding PronounAntecedent Agreement (The following is from Writing First 2nd ed., pg.412) The word that a pronoun refers to is called the pronoun’s antecedent. In the following sentence, the noun leaf is the antecedent of the pronoun it. subject pronoun The leaf turned yellow, but it did not fall. A pronoun must always agree in number with the antecedent. If an antecedent is singular, the pronoun must be singular. If the antecedent is plural, the pronoun must also be plural. subject pronoun The leaves turned yellow, but they did not fall. A pronoun should always refer to a specific antecedent. Vague: On the evening news, they said a baseball strike was inevitable. Revised: On the evening news, the sportscaster said a baseball strike was inevitable. Part Two Solving Special Problems with Subject-Pronoun Agreement Compound subjects combined with and/or are either plural or singular. These rules that apply to subject-pronoun agreement are the same rules for subject-verb agreement: the subject closest to the verb must be in agreement when there is an or in the compound subject. Compound subjects with and are always plural. During World War II, Belgium and France (subject) tried to protect their (pronoun) borders. Either my two dog or my tabby cat (subject) must have put its (pronoun) paw in the frosting. Either my tabby cat or my two dogs (subject) must have put their paws (pronoun) in the frosting. Part Three Indefinite Pronouns Singular Indefinite Pronouns: another everybody no one anybody everyone nothing anyone everything one anything much somebody each neither someone either nobody someting Example: Everything (subject) was in its (pronoun) place. Each (subject) student has his or her (pronoun) assignment. Something (subject) s wrong with its (pronoun) lock. His or Her with Singular Indefinite Pronoun Even though the indefinite pronouns anybody, anyone, everybody, everyone, someone, and so on are singular, many people with plural pronouns to refer to them. Everyone (subject) must hand in their (pronoun) completed work before 2 p.m. (This usage is widely accepted in spoken English. Nevertheless, indefinite pronouns like everyone are singular, and written English requires a singular pronoun.) Although using the singular pronoun his to refer to everyone is technically correct, doing so assumes that everyone refers to an individual is male. Using his or her allows for the possibility that the indefinite pronoun may refer to either a male or a female. Everyone (subject) must hand in his or her (pronoun) completed work before 2 p.m. Indefinite Pronouns with Of Some singular indefinite pronouns may be used in phrases with of – each of, either of, neither of, or one of, for example. Even in such phrases, these indefinite pronoun antecedents are always singular and take singular pronouns. Each (subject) of the routes (prepositional phrase) has its (pronoun) [not their] own special challenges. Part Four Collective Nouns Collective nouns are words (like band and team) that name a group of people or things but are singular. It takes the pronoun it/its Frequently Used Collective Nouns: army club gang mob association committee union government posse band company group team class family jury Examples: The company (subject) provides its (pronoun) verdict. Every family (subject) has its (pronoun) share of troubles. The gang (subject) is known for its (pronoun) (violent initiation rites. Part Five Understanding Pronoun Case Subjective I he she it we you they who whoever Objective me him her it us you them whom whomever Possessive my, mine his her, hers its our, ours your, yours their, theirs whose A personal pronoun refers to a particular person or thing. Personal pronouns change form according to the way they function in a sentence. Personal pronouns can be subjective, objective, or possessive. When a pronoun functions as a sentence’s subject, it is in the subjective case. Finally, she realized that dreams could come true. When a pronoun functions as an object, it is in objective case. If Joanna hurries, she can stop him. (The pronoun him is the direct object of the verb can stop.) Professor Miller sent us information about his research. (The pronoun us is the indirect object of the verb sent).
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