A pronoun antecedent is a word that comes before a pronoun to which the pronoun refers. Following are definitions of antecedent as well as a review about the types of pronoun, information about the functions of an antecedent in a sentence, and examples of how to use in a sentence.
The word “antecedent” means something that precedes something else. In language, it is the word that a pronoun refers back to. Since the pronoun replaces the noun, it has to agree in number. So, if the antecedent, or word that comes before, is singular, then the pronoun that takes its place must also be singular.
It can be confusing if there are several words between the pronoun and its antecedent. These words or clauses have no bearing on the words and they need to be ignored.
Following are some special situations with examples of the correct way to have pronoun antecedent agreement.
There are several rules concerning the use of indefinite pronouns as antecedents and the pronoun antecedent agreement. The following indefinite pronouns are singular and need a singular pronoun: one, no one, some one, everyone, anyone, nobody, anybody, somebody, everybody, nothing, anything, something, everything, each, either, neither. An example is “Everything here has its own box.”
The plural indefinite pronouns: several, both, few, and many, need to have a plural pronoun, like in this sentence: “Several are there because of their looks.”
Lastly, if there is an indefinite pronoun that is being modified by a prepositional phrase, then the object of the phrase will determine the agreement between the pronoun and its antecedent. These special indefinite pronouns are: some, most, all, any, or none. Look at these two sentences: “Most of the flour fell out of its canister” and “Many of the gems have lost their shine”. If the object, like “flour” is uncountable, then the pronoun has to be singular (its). If the object is countable, like “gems”, then the pronoun needs to be plural (their).
A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun or another pronoun. Personal pronouns substitute for a certain thing or person and are classified by subjective, objective, and possessive:
I, we, you, he, she, it, and they
me, us, you, him, her, it, and them
mine, ours, yours, his, hers, its, and theirs
Demonstrative pronouns identify and point to the noun or pronoun. They are:
this, that, these, and those
Interrogative pronouns are used to ask a question. These are:
who, whom, what, which whoever, whomever, whatever, and whichever
Relative pronouns link clauses or phrases to the rest of the sentence. It could be:
who, whoever, whom, whomever, that, which, and whichever
Indefinite pronouns are not specific and refer to all, some, or none. There are many of these, and a few are:
one, few, any, nobody, anything, and everything
Reflexive pronouns refer back to the subject of a clause or sentence. These are:
myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves
Intensive pronouns emphasize and intensify the word preceding it. They are the same as the reflexive pronouns. An example is “I myself could not believe it.”
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