PRONOUNS AND ANTECEDENTS
§ Make personal pronouns agree with their antecedents in number and gender.
§ Understand the traditional use of common gender and be able to use its alternatives with sensitivity.
§ Make personal pronouns agree with subjects joined by or or nor.
Make personal pronouns agree with indefinite
pronouns, collective nouns, and organization names.
§ Understand the functions of who and whom.
§ Follow a three-step plan in selecting who or whom.
§ Use the possessive pronoun whose correctly.
FUNDAMENTALS OF PRONOUN-ANTECEDENT AGREEMENT
Reference. Do not
use pronouns unless the person or thing referred to, the antecedent, is clear.
Don told Andrew that he was eligible.
(To whom does he refer?)
In some restaurants they require coats and ties.
(Instead of the vague pronoun they, use a noun
such as the owners or management.)
n Number Agreement. Pronouns must agree in number with the nouns they represent.
One member of the girls’ team forgot her tennis
shoes. (The singular pronoun her refers to the
singular antecedent member.)
Several candidates were given their tests at once.
n Plural Pronoun. If a pronoun refers to two nouns joined by and, the pronoun must be plural.
The manager and the supervisor discussed their plans
for improving work flow.
n Antecedent Location. Disregard phrases that come between a pronoun and the word to which it refers.
Judy Foster, along with several staff members, took
her vacation in August.
One of the male employees had his merit review.
n Gender Agreement. Pronouns must agree in gender with their antecedents.
Cortez gave her approval.
Josh parked his truck. (Masculine gender)
Our office has its own lunch room. (Neuter gender)
the gender of the antecedent is unknown, the use of common-gender, or masculine
pronouns, was accepted in the past.
Sensitive writers today should avoid common-gender pronouns, which can
Every worker is trained for his job.
All workers are trained for their jobs.
Every worker is trained for a job.
Every worker is trained for his or her job.
(Avoid using this wordy construction.)
Every worker is trained for their job.
(Why is this unacceptable?)
Subject (worker) is singular and takes a singular pronoun.
SPECIAL CHALLENGES With Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
antecedents are joined by or or nor, a pronoun should agree with the
antecedent closest to it.
It was either Matthew or Kevin
who offered his seat.
Neither the supervisor nor the workers expected to see
their salaries increased this year.
Neither the workers nor the supervisor expected to see
his (or her) salary increased this year.
Pronouns. When they function as antecedents, some indefinite
pronouns are always singular and others are always plural.
Always Singular Always Plural
anybody everything both
anyone neither few
anything nobody many
each no one several
Everyone in the men’s chorus wore his robe.
Somebody left his or her car lights on.
A few of the employees in our company have their own
private parking spaces.
Nouns. Words such as jury,
faculty, committee, staff, union,
team, flock, and group are
considered singular when they function as a unit. Collective nouns can also be plural when the
elements operate separately.
The jury rendered its (not their) verdict.
The jury entered the courtroom individually and took
n Company and Organization Names. The names of companies and organizations are generally considered to be singular.
Airlines is expanding its (not their) routes.
Milberg & Weiss changed its (not their) name.
n Each, Every, and Many a. When each, every, or many a (not many) precedes a compound subject joined by and, the subject is considered singular.*
Every player and coach on the men's team is expected to bring his
(not their) own play book.
[Think: Every single player and every single coach is expected to bring his own play book.]
Once on the job many an intern and new employee
values his or her (not their) computer training.
[Think: Many a single intern and many a single new
employee values his or her computer training.]
*This idiosyncratic usage is difficult to accept, but authorities agree on it.
Select the correct pronoun or word to complete the following sentences.
(They, Meteorologists) predict it will rain
One member of the boys’ soccer team left (his, their)
jacket on the bus.
Gordon Young, together with his employees, ate (his, their)
Every employee is free to speak (his, his
or her, their) mind.
Either Max or his employees will have (his, their)
Either his employees or Max will have (his, their)
Someone still needs to cast (his, his or her, their) vote.
Next, the faculty turned (its, their) attention to
9. Target plans to lower (its, their) prices.
10. Every manager and sales rep is provided (his or her, their) own company car.
Advanced Pronoun Uses: Who/Whom
Case. Who and whoever are subjective-case forms and are used as subjects and
subject complements. Whom and whomever are objective-case forms and
are used as objects of verbs and prepositions.
Procedure. Follow these steps to
select who or whom.
1. Isolate the who/whom clause.
2. Invert the clause, if necessary, to restore normal
3. Substitute he (she or they) for who and him (her or
them) for whom.
4. Equate and complete the clause.
EXAMPLE: HE IS THE ONE (WHO/WHOM) WE WANT.
1. Isolate clause (who/whom) we want
2. Invert we want (who/whom)
3. Substitute we want him
4. Equate we want whom
5. Complete He is the one WHOM we want.
Select the correct pronoun to complete the following sentences.
1. He is
the applicant (who/whom) applied last week.
2. An old
friend (who/whom) we had not seen for years surprised us with a visit.
the visitor say (who/whom) she wanted to see?
n Intervening Phrases. Mentally ignore
parenthetical phrases like I believe,
you think, we know, and we are sure.
EXAMPLE: HIRE A CLERK (WHO/WHOM) YOU THINK IS GOOD.
1. Isolate clause (who/whom) you think is good
2. Ignore phrase (who/whom) is good
3. Substitute he is good
4. Equate who is good
5. Complete Hire a clerk WHO you think is good.
Clauses. Clauses containing whoever/whomever often function as
subjects or objects in sentences. When the entire clause acts as a subject or
object, determine how whoever/whomever
functions within that clause.
EXAMPLE: THOSE SUPPLIES ARE FOR (WHOEVER/ WHOMEVER) ORDERED THEM.
1. Isolate clause (whoever/whomever) ordered them
2. Substitute he ordered them
3. Equate whoever ordered them
4. Complete Those supplies are for WHOEVER
Select the correct pronoun to complete the following sentences.
will hire (whoever/whomever) you may recommend.
you checked with (whoever/whomever) placed this order?
is the employee about (who/whom) I believe you asked.
wonder (who/whom) the new manager will be. (Tricky!)