If you are concerned with pronoun antecedent agreement, there are several things to consider. First you need to understand the meanings of pronoun and antecedent. You may also want to know some tips on knowing how to make them agree.
A pronoun is a hard-working word that can take the place of a noun. An antecedent is something that comes before something else. In a sentence, a pronoun will often refer back to an antecedent, like in this sentence:“ Bonnie has ruined her dress. The pronoun is “her” and its antecedent is “”Bonnie.”
Sometimes the antecedent will be in the following sentence, like:“ The play that was written by Shakespeare was one of his best. It had just the right amount of comedy and drama.” Here, the pronoun is “It” and the antecedent is “play.”
Because the pronoun can substitute for a noun, it has to agree. That means, if the noun is singular, then pronoun has to be singular as well. It sounds like a pretty simple concept, and it is. Sometimes, it is not clear how to achieve pronoun antecedent agreement, and sometimes sentences are complex and confusing.
One of the things that can make it difficult to make the pronoun and antecedent agree is having compound subjects. The determining word is the word that connects the subjects. In this sentence “Dogs and cats love their collars” the two subjects are joined by the word “and.”
In this case, you would use the plural form of the pronoun. However, if the words “or” or “nor” are used, the subject that is closer or closest to the pronoun will determine the form of the pronoun. For example, “The principal or the teachers wanted their salaries raised.” The pronoun “their” has to be plural because the noun “teachers” is closer to the pronoun.
Another thing that can make pronoun antecedent agreement hard is the complexity of the sentence. If there is a clause between the subject and the pronoun, you may have agreement but the sentence may sound wrong. In this case, just leave out the clause or words between and you will see if you have the proper pronoun that agrees with the subject. For example, “If Bob wants to succeed in the track meets, he needs to train everyday.” The pronoun is “he” and “Bob” is the antecedent.
One area that needs to be addressed is the use of indefinite pronouns as antecedents. Some indefinite pronouns that can be used as an antecedent are: no one, nobody, nothing, anyone, someone, somebody, something, someone, everyone, everybody, everything, everyone, one, each, neither, and either. These particular antecedents will need a singular pronoun. For example, “Everybody is welcome to paint his own birdhouse.” To be non-sexist, you may want to use “his or her”.
There are a few plural indefinite pronouns that if used as antecedents, will need a plural pronoun. These are: both, few, many, and several. These are not really confusing but needed to be included. An example would be “Both may have their dessert now.”
When an antecedent is a phrase, the determining word to decide the agreement is the object of the phrase. The pronoun will be singular if the noun is uncountable. Examples of uncountable nouns are: rice, air, sugar, baggage, water, butter, gravy, beer, and gravy. In this example: “ Some of the furniture has lost its shine.” “Furniture” is an uncountable noun and would need a singular pronoun “its.”
Other indefinite pronouns that can start a phrase include: all, any, many, most, and none. In the next example, a countable noun is the object: “None of our cats have had their shots.” The word “cats” is a countable noun, meaning you can count it. The indefinite pronoun is “None” and the pronoun is “its.”
Here are some examples of nouns that need a singular pronoun. Collective nouns that refer to a group as a whole unit would be treated as a singular noun. These include: jury, committee, team, school, colony, crowd, and herd. Some nouns sound plural but are not, like mumps, physics, and news.