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Noun-Pronoun Agreement Part 2

In part one of Noun-Pronoun Agreement we covered singular and plural pronouns.

Now let’s look at agreeing in person and making sure that the antecedent is obvious.

Agreeing in Person

In grammar, there are first-, second-, and third-person pronouns.

  • First-Person: I, me, my, mine, we, us, our, ours
  • Second-Person: You, your
  • Third-Person: He, him, his, she, her, hers, it, its, they, them, their, theirs

Just like your antecedent and pronoun must agree in number, they must also agree in person.

Wrong: Writers need to accept that you’ll never satisfy everyone about using a singular “they”.

Right: Writers need to accept that they’ll never satisfy everyone about using a singular “they”.

Wrong: Robyn, as an experienced writer, what are her thoughts about “they” being a singular pronoun?

Right: Robyn, as an experienced writer, what are your thoughts about “they” being a singular pronoun?

Having a Clear Antecedent

Consider this sentence: I got a flat tire on my bike, and the bus broke down, but it was easy to fix. Now you’re wondering, “What was easy to fix? The bike or the bus?” The problem with this sentence is that the antecedent is unclear.

Improved: I got a flat tire on my bike, and the bus broke down, but at least the tire was easy to fix.

Improved: I got a flat tire on my bike, and the bus broke down, but the former was easy to fix.

Improved: I got a flat tire on my bike, and the bus broke down, but the mechanics easily fixed the bus.

Be especially careful when using “this” and “that” that it’s clear what they refer to.

Wrong: Grapes are my favorite fruit. This is great.

Improved: Grapes are my favorite fruit. This bunch is great.

I improved the sentence by adding a noun after “this,” which is a good way to make sure that it’s obvious what “this” is.

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