Pronouns

Pronouns are words that take the place of a noun in a sentence so that awkward duplication and repetition can be avoided.  

This part of speech is very important to proper English grammar and to proper sentence structure. It is a very common part of speech and often misused.

Antecedents work together very effectively with this very important part of speech.  They are vital to clarity and understanding.

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SPECIAL LINK - Click here to learn about Antecedents.

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Review of nouns

Nouns can be persons, places, or things.  The words that take the place of the nouns are created so that you can tell whether you're referring to a person or a thing quite clearly.

  • John
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • desk

John has three sisters.  He is the baby of the family.

In the second sentence, "He" clearly refers to "John" in the first sentence

Pronouns and Antecedents - What is an Antecedent?

What is an Antecedent?

John has three sisters.  He is the baby of the family.

The antecedent of "he" is "John."  (The antecedent is the word that is mentioned first or before.  The prefix "ante" means before.  The two words must match.)

Both words and both references must match each other - in gender and in number. 

  • John is male.  "He" is also male.
  • John is singular.  "He" is also singular.

The usage above in both sentences is good.

SPECIAL LINK - Click here to learn more about Antecedents.


Referring to people/persons


Personal  (refer to persons)

  • Can be subjects or objects
  • Can be singular or plural.


(a) Subjects - singular and plural

  • He, she it - singular, subject
  • They - plural, subject

He is an excellent wrestler.

They have won the team championship many times.


(b) Objects - singular and plural

  • Him, her, it - singular, object
  • Them  - plural, object

The team counts on him to win many points.

The bus driver drove them all to the game.

Some tricky examples

Some of these cause some challenge.  They are singular, and yet are more often used as plurals - incorrectly.

You can improve your writing if you are consistent in correctly using these three that follow:

  • everyone
  • someone
  • anyone

There may be others similar, but begin with these ones.

  • Although "everyone" may appear to be plural because it seems to mean "all," it is really singular.  Every single one...
  • "Someone" also refers to a singular entity. Some one individual...
  • "Anyone" also refers to a singular entity. Any single one...

Each word above is singular; however, it appears to include more than one person.  But don't be fooled.

When you break down the words, they become:

  • every single one ...
  • some one ...
  • any one...

And when you break down the words like that, it is easy to see that they are, indeed, singular.

The verb must match the subject in number. Notice the difference in the sentences below:

  • Everyone wants something. (singular) 
  • They all want something. (plural)


  • Someone wants something. (singular)
  • They all want something. (plural)


  • Anyone wants something.  (singular)
  • They all want something. (plural)


Don't be confused...


So, don't get confused when you see these words in a slightly different way.

  • Everyone wants to have their own way.
  • Someone wants to have their own room.
  • Anyone can have their own copy if there are enough.

Are the statements above correct? 

  • NO!  The above are all incorrect!

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Why? 

  • The SUBJECTS  are singular. 
  • The PRONOUNS do not match the subjects in number.


The correct version might be:

  • Everyone wants to have his (or her) own way.
  • Someone wants to have his (or her) own room.
  • Anyone can have his (or her) own copy if there are enough.

But, it's very AWKWARD to have to write his/her or his or her repeatedly.


Revise to the plural for a good presentation!

So, make a change to the plural for a very good flow and accurate grammar:

  • All of the persons in the group want their own way.
  • All of the persons in the group want their own room.
  • All of the persons can have their own copy if there are enough.


Click here to learn more about Antecedents.


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Review

So what have we learned so far from these examples?

  • A singular subject requires a singular verb
  • When you replace a noun with another word that represents it, the two words must agree in number.
  • Both references must agree in number.


When you write in long sentences, the challenge to write correctly is made more difficult.  So, try to write in short sentences and short paragraphs.

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Here are a few examples to test your knowledge. 

Are they correct or not?  If not, why not?

  1. Everyone wants to find friendly information available at their fingertips on all their devices.
  2. Content authors can focus their energy on writing the content.
  3. Improve the employee productivity and improve their morale.
  4. There are many software applications available for the content provider to choose from based on their needs.

Critique:

1.  Incorrect.  "Everyone" is singular and yet "their" is plural.

2.  Correct.  "Content authors" is plural and "their" is plural.

3.  Incorrect.  "employee" is singular and "their" is plural.

4.  Incorrect.  "content provider" is singular and "their" is plural.

How did you do?


LINK - Return from Pronouns to Parts of Speech.

LINK - Return to Professional Business Writing from Pronouns.


LINK - Click this link to find an excellent course in business writing.