Friday, 12 November 2010

LEOLEO: Literacy Education Online

Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement


Pronoun
A pronoun is a substitute for a noun. It refers to a person, place, thing, feeling, or quality but does not refer to it by its name. The pronoun in the following sample sentence is bolded.
The critique of Plato's Republic was written from a contemporary point of view. It was an in-depth analysis of Plato's opinions about possible governmental forms.
Antecedent
An antecedent is the word, phrase, or clause to which a pronoun refers, understood by the context. The antecedent in the following sample sentence is bolded.
The critique of Plato's Republic was written from a contemporary point of view. It was an in-depth analysis of Plato's opinions about possible governmental forms.
While the pronouns I and you can be replaced by nouns, the context of a sentence does not always require the nouns to make clear to which persons I and you refer. However, the third person pronouns (he, she, it, they) almost always derive their meaning from their antecedents or the words for which they stand. Remember that pronouns in the third person communicate nothing unless the reader knows what they mean:
It is the best source available. What source is that?

Agreement
A pronoun must agree with its antecedent in three ways:

  • Person refers to the quality of being.
  • Number is the quality that distinguishes between singular (one entity) and plural (numerous entities).
  • Gender is the quality that distinguishes the entities as masculine or feminine.

Grammar Conflicts

The following are some incorrect sentences. An explanation of the conflicts that some sentences may present in person, number, and gender and some possible solutions to the errors are given.

Person

Incorrect Sentence
If a person wants to succeed in corporate life, you have to know the rules of the game.
Explanation
Antecedent a person (third person)
Pronoun you (second person)
Conclusion no person agreement
Solution

Although the antecedent and the pronoun agree in number, they do not agree in person. This problem can be remedied in two ways.

Solution
Example
Change the second person singular, you, to a third person singular pronoun. If a person wants to succeed in corporate life, he or she has to know the rules of the game.
Change the third person singular antecedent, a person, to a second person singular antecedent. If you want to succeed in corporate life, you have to know the rules of the game.

Number
Incorrect Sentence

If anybody wants to succeed in corporate life, they have to know the rules of the game.

Explanation
Antecedent anybody (third person singular)
Pronoun they (third person plural)
Conclusion no number agreement
Solution

Although the antecedent and pronoun agree in person, they do not agree in number. This problem can be remedied in two ways.

Solution
Example
Make the antecedent plural. If people want to succeed in corporate life, they have to know the rules of the game.
Make the pronoun singular. If anybody wants to succeed in corporate life, he or she has to know the rules of the game.

Gender
Incorrect Sentence

If a person wants to succeed in corporate life, he has to know the rules of the game.

Explanation
Antecedent a person (third person neutral singular)
Pronoun he (third person masculine singular)
Conclusion no gender agreement

Solution

Even though there is person and number agreement between the antecedent, a person, and the pronoun, he, there is no gender agreement; in other words, the language appears to favor one sex over the other. This problem can be remedied in two ways.

Solution
Example
Replace the pronoun he with he or she. If a person wants to succeed in corporate life, he or she has to know the rules of the game.
Make the entire sentence plural. If people want to succeed in corporate life, they have to know the rules of the game.

Usage - Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

A pronoun is a word used to stand for (or take the place of) a noun.

A word can refer to an earlier noun or pronoun in the sentence.

Example:

We do not talk or write this way. Automatically, we replace the noun Lincoln's with a pronoun. More naturally, we say

The pronoun his refers to President Lincoln.

In this sentence, the pronoun his is called the REFERENT because it "refers back."

It refers back to President Lincoln, the ANTECEDENT. An antecedent is a word for which a pronoun stands. (ante = "before")

The pronoun must agree with its antecedent in number.

Rule: A singular pronoun must replace a singular noun; a plural pronoun must replace a plural noun.

Thus, the mechanics of the sentence above look like this:

Here are nine pronoun-antecedent agreement rules. These rules are related to the rules found in subject-verb agreement.

1. A phrase or clause between the subject and verb does not change the number of the antecedent.

Example:


2.
Indefinite pronouns as antecedents

  • Singular indefinite pronoun antecedents take singular pronoun referents.

Example:

  • Plural indefinite pronoun antecedents require plural referents.

PLURAL: several, few, both, many

Example:

EITHER SINGULAR OR PLURAL: some, any, none, all, most

Examples:

Sugar is uncountable; therefore, the sentence has a singular referent pronoun.

Jewelry is uncountable; therefore, the sentence has a singular referent pronoun.

Examples:

Marbles are countable; therefore, the sentence has a plural referent pronoun.

Jewels are countable; therefore, the sentence has a plural referent pronoun.



3. Compound subjects joined by and always take a plural referent.

Example:




4. With compound subjects joined by or/nor, the referent pronoun agrees with the antecedent closer to the pronoun.

Example #1 (plural antecedent closer to pronoun):


Example #2 (singular antecedent closer to pronoun):

Note: Example #1, with the plural antecedent closer to the pronoun, creates a smoother sentence
than example #2, which forces the use of the singular "his or her."



5. Collective Nouns (group, jury, crowd, team, etc.) may be singular or plural, depending on meaning.

In this example, the jury is acting as one unit; therefore, the referent pronoun is singular.

In this example, the jury members are acting as twelve individuals; therefore, the referent
pronoun is plural.

In this example, the jury members are acting as twelve individuals; therefore, the referent
pronoun is plural.


6. Titles of single entities. (books, organizations, countries, etc.) take a singular referent.

EXAMPLES:



7.
Plural form subjects with a singular meaning
take a singular referent. (news, measles, mumps, physics, etc)

EXAMPLE:


8.
Every or Many a before a noun or a series of nouns requires a singular referent.

EXAMPLES:


9.
The
number of vs A number of before a subject:

  • The number of is singular.

  • A number of is plural.

1 comment:

  1. Hi man how are you doing? please help me answer this question. trace the history and development of lexicology in and outside Africa. how can I approach it?

    ReplyDelete