300 Days of Better Writing

September 30, 2014

Antecedents and pronouns must agree in number.

Filed under: WritingExcellence — preciseedit @ 1:29 pm

Most people know what pronouns are: he, she, it, we, him, her, them, they, etc. The antecedent is the word to which the pronoun refers. Consider these sentences.

“I gave Mary her box of treasures. It was small.”

The first pronoun is “her,” and it refers to the antecedent “Mary.” The second pronoun is “it,” and it refers to the antecedent “box.”

This can be confusing when the antecedent has more than one thing. Consider this sentence.

“The toy under the table and the doll on the shelf should be placed immediately in THEIR respective containers.”

This needs the plural pronoun “their” because it refers to two things.

To make sure the pronoun and antecedent agree in number, ask yourself whether the antecedent includes more than one thing. If it does, the pronoun should do the same.

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