Understanding singular pronouns is important so that you can make sure that there is agreement between the subject and verb or the pronoun and antecedent in a sentence. If one is singular, the other must be singular too.
Defining a Singular Pronoun
All pronouns are words that takes the place of a noun. The prefix “pro” means “for,” so a pronoun is “for a noun.” This allows for the text to flow better and not be hampered with cumbersome repetitions of nouns.
Some pronouns are designed to reflect singular situations and some reflect plural situations. It is important to understand which pronouns are singular so that you are successful in using a singular pronoun when the word it is replacing in the sentence (the "antecedent") is singular.
Here is a list of singular pronouns for each of the types of pronouns:
- Subject Pronouns - I, you, he, she, it, they
- Object Pronouns - me, you, him, her, it
- Possessive Pronouns - my, mine, your, yours, his, her, hers, its
- Interrogative Pronouns - who, whom, whose, what, which
- Indefinite Pronouns - another, each, everything, nobody, either, someone
- Relative Pronouns - who, whom, whose, that, which
- Reflexive and Intensive Pronouns - myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself
- Demonstrative Pronouns - this, that
Antecedents and Pronouns
A pronoun often refers back to a noun, pronoun, phrase, or clause in a sentence or sentences and that would be the pronoun’s antecedent. If the antecedent is singular, the pronoun that refers back to it must be singular. This is called pronoun antecedent agreement.
There are certain situations and some words that can be bothersome when trying to make pronouns and their antecedents agree:
- Sometimes there are a lot of words and phrases between the two so you would need to ignore those extra words and focus on the words that need to agree.
- Other times, the subject is referring to a group of people or things. In this case, the group is treated as singular, like in: team, family, jury, herd, or gaggle.
- A compound subject will need a singular pronoun if the words “or” or “nor” are joining the subjects. If this is the case, the subject that is closer to the pronoun is the one the pronoun must agree with. An example is “The workers or the boss wanted his hours changed.”
- The following indefinite pronouns are singular and, if used as antecedents, would require a singular pronoun. They are: no one, nothing, nobody, anyone, anything, anybody, someone, something, somebody, everyone, everything, everybody, one, each, either, and neither.
Understanding the grammar rules for using singular pronouns is key to making sure that the pronoun and the antecedent agree.