Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

3.4: Make Pronouns and Antecedents agree

  • Page ID
    70176
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    Antecedent Agreement

    clipboard_ea9095e542c4d03fad9a269ae3b86acd0.png
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    As you write, make sure that you are using the correct pronouns. When a pronoun matches the person and number of its antecedent, we say that it agrees with it antecedent. Let’s look at a couple of examples:

    • I hate it when Zacharias tells me what to do. He‘s so full of himself.
    • The Finnegans are shouting again. I swear you could hear them from across town!

    In the first sentence, Zacharias is singular, third person, and masculine. The pronouns he and himself are also singular, third person, and masculine, so they agree. In the second sentence, the Finnegans is plural and third person. The pronoun them is also plural and third person.

    When you select your pronoun, you also need to ensure you use the correct case of pronoun. Remember we learned about three cases: subject, object, and possessive. The case of your pronoun should match its role in the sentence. For example, if your pronoun is doing an action, it should be a subject:

    • He runs every morning.
    • I hate it when she does this.

    However, when something is being done to your pronoun, it should be an object:

    • Birds have always hated me.
    • My boss wanted to talk to him.
    • Give her the phone and walk away.

    However, things aren’t always this straightforward. Let’s take a look at some examples where things are a little more confusing.

    Person and Number

    Some of the trickiest agreements are with indefinite pronouns:

    • Every student should do his or her best on this assignment.
    • If nobody lost his or her scarf, then where did this come from?

    As we learned earlier in this outcome, words like every and nobody are singular, and demand singular pronouns. Here are some of the words that fall into this category:

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Anybody

    Anyone

    Anything

    Each

    Either

    Every

    Everybody

    Everyone

    Everything

    Neither

    No one

    Nobody

    Nothing

    One

    Somebody

    Someone

    Something

    Some of these may feel “more singular” than others, but they all are technically singular. Thus, using “he or she” is correct (while they is incorrect).

    However, as you may have noticed, the phrase “he or she” (and its other forms) can often make your sentences clunky. When this happens, it may be best to revise your sentences to have plural antecedents. Because “he or she” is clunky, you’ll often see issues like this:

    The way each individual speaks can tell us so much about him or her. It tells us what groups they associate themselves with, both ethnically and socially.

    As you can see, in the first sentence, him or her agrees with the indefinite pronoun each. However, in the second sentence, the writer has shifted to the plural they, even though the writer is talking about the same group of people. When you write, make sure your agreement is correct and consistent.

    Case

    Some of the most common pronoun mistakes occur with the decision between “you and I” and “you and me.” People will often say things like “You and me should go out for drinks.” Or—thinking back on the rule that it should be “you and I”—they will say “Susan assigned the task to both you and I.” However, both of these sentences are wrong. Remember that every time you use a pronoun you need to make sure that you’re using the correct case.

    Let’s take a look at the first sentence: “You and me should go out for drinks.” Both pronouns are the subject of the sentence, so they should be in subject case: “You and I should go out for drinks.”

    In the second sentence (Susan assigned the task to both you and I), both pronouns are the object of the sentence, so they should be in object case: “Susan assigned the task to both you and me.”

    Contributors and Attributions


    3.4: Make Pronouns and Antecedents agree is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

    • Was this article helpful?