10 Rules of Pronoun Antecedents and Agreement with Examples

As writers, we often overlook the importance of proper pronoun antecedents and agreement. However, these are crucial aspects of writing that can make or break the clarity and professionalism of your content. As a professional, I have had the opportunity to review countless pieces of content and have compiled 10 essential rules for pronoun antecedent and agreement that will enhance your writing skills.

1. Match Singular Pronouns With Singular Antecedents

When using singular pronouns such as “he,” “she,” or “it,” it is important to match them with singular antecedents. For instance, “The dog barked because they were excited.” In this sentence, the pronoun “they” is plural, but the antecedent “dog” is singular. The correct sentence would be: “The dog barked because it was excited.”

2. Match Plural Pronouns With Plural Antecedents

Similar to the first rule, when using plural pronouns like “they,” “we,” or “you,” it is essential to match them with plural antecedents. For example, “The team won the game because it worked together.” In this sentence, the pronoun “it” is singular, but the antecedent “team” is plural. The correct sentence should be: “The team won the game because they worked together.”

3. Use Gender-Neutral Pronouns

When referring to a person whose gender is unknown or when writing inclusively, use gender-neutral pronouns like “they,” “them,” or “their.” For example, “The new employee is starting on Monday, and they are excited to meet the team.”

4. Avoid Pronoun Ambiguity

Pronoun ambiguity occurs when the pronoun used in a sentence can refer to more than one antecedent, leading to confusion. To avoid this, ensure that your pronoun clearly refers to a specific antecedent. For example, “The doctor told the patient that he should take his medicine regularly.” In this sentence, it is unclear whether “he” refers to the doctor or the patient. The correct sentence would be: “The doctor told the patient to take their medicine regularly.”

5. Use Pronouns Consistently

When referring to a particular person or object, use the same pronoun throughout the piece. For example, “When John arrived at the store, he realized he had forgotten his wallet. He quickly went back to his car to get it.” In this sentence, “John” could be replaced with “he” to avoid repetition: “When he arrived at the store, he realized he had forgotten his wallet. He quickly went back to his car to get it.”

6. Use Indefinite Pronouns Correctly

Indefinite pronouns like “each,” “anyone,” and “everyone” are always singular and should be matched with singular pronouns. For example, “Everyone should bring their own laptop to the meeting” is incorrect. The correct sentence would be: “Everyone should bring his or her own laptop to the meeting.”

7. Use Compound Antecedents Correctly

When using multiple antecedents that are joined by the conjunction “and,” the pronoun used should be plural. For example, “Sarah and Tom went to the park, and she played on the swings.” In this sentence, “she” refers to Sarah, but it is unclear. The correct sentence would be: “Sarah and Tom went to the park and played on the swings.”

8. Be Careful With Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns like “who,” “whom,” and “that” should be matched with their respective antecedents. For example, “The girl that won the race was happy” is incorrect. The correct sentence should be: “The girl who won the race was happy.”

9. Match Pronouns With Collective Nouns

When using collective nouns like “team,” “family,” or “committee,” the pronoun used should be matched with the entity’s number. For example, “The committee finished their work early” is incorrect. The correct sentence should be: “The committee finished its work early.”

10. Use Pronouns To Avoid Repetition

Finally, use pronouns to avoid repetition of the same word or phrase. For example, “The book was written by the author, and the author’s name was on the cover of the book.” In this sentence, “the author” is repeated twice. The correct sentence would be: “The book was written by the author, and his name was on the cover.”

In conclusion, mastering pronoun antecedent and agreement is essential to communicating clearly and professionally in both written and spoken language. By following these ten rules, you can improve the overall quality of your writing, enhance your readers’ understanding, and ultimately, increase your online traffic and SEO success.