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Pronoun Errors

A pronoun is a word that stands for a noun, known as the antecedent of the pronoun. The key point for the use of pronouns is this:

  • Pronouns must agree with their antecedents in both number (singular or plural) and person (1st, 2nd, or 3rd).
Example
Steve has yet to receive his degree.
 
Here, the pronoun his refers to the noun Steve.
 

Following is a list of the most common pronouns:
 
Pronouns
 

Singular

Plural

Both Singular and Plural

I, me

we, us

any

she, her

they

none

he, him

them

all

it

these

most

anyone

those

more

either

some

who

each

that

which

many a

both

what

nothing

ourselves

you

one

any

 

another

many

 

everything

few

 

mine

several

 

his, hers

others

 

this

   

that

   


Reference

  • A pronoun should be plural when it refers to two nouns joined by and.

Example

Jane and Katarina believe they passed the final exam.


The plural pronoun they refers to the compound subject Jane and Katarina.
 

  • A pronoun should be singular when it refers to two nouns joined by or or nor.

Example

Incorrect:

Neither Jane nor Katarina believes they passed the final.

 

Correct:

Neither Jane nor Katarina believes she passed the final.
 

  • A pronoun should refer to one and only one noun or compound noun.

This is probably the most common pronoun error. If a pronoun follows two nouns, it is often unclear which of the nouns the pronoun refers to.

 

Faulty Usage

The breakup of the Soviet Union has left nuclear weapons in the hands of unstable, nascent countries. It is imperative to world security that they be destroyed.

 

Although one is unlikely to take the sentence to mean that the countries must be destroyed, that interpretation is possible from the structure of the sentence. It is easily corrected:

 

The breakup of the Soviet Union has left nuclear weapons in the hands of unstable, nascent countries. It is imperative to world security that these weapons be destroyed.

 

 

Faulty Usage

In Somalia, they have become jaded by the constant warfare.

 

This construction is faulty because they does not have an antecedent. The sentence can be corrected by replacing they with people:

 

In Somalia, people have become jaded by the constant warfare.

 

Better:

The people of Somalia have become jaded by the constant warfare.

  • In addition to agreeing with its antecedent in number, a pronoun must agree with its antecedent in person.

 


Faulty Usage

One enters this world with no responsibilities. Then comes school, then work, then marriage and family. No wonder, you look longingly to retirement.
 

In this sentence, the subject has changed from one (third person) to you (second person). To correct the sentence either replace one with you or vice versa:

 

You enter this world with no responsibilities. Then comes school, then work, then marriage and family. No wonder, you look longingly to retirement.

 

One enters this world with no responsibilities. Then comes school, then work, then marriage and family. No wonder, one looks longingly to retirement.





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