As stated before, pronouns replace, or “stand in,” for nouns. The noun which is replaced by a pronoun is called the pronoun “antecedent.” Pronouns also agree in number and in gender with the nouns which they replace. Examine the sample sentence below:
Ex. Jill did not like her Math 106 grade.
The pronoun “her” is taking the place of the feminine noun “Jill”. Notice both are female and singular.
However, consider the following:
Ex. The students did not like their Math 106 final exam grades.
Here, the pronoun “their” is taking the place of the noun “students,” which is plural.
Problems related to NUMBER –
One type of pronoun, the indefinite pronoun, causes a lot of problems due to cultural shifts and usage. Pronouns like “anyone” or “everybody” don’t require antecedents, and their number is unclear to many people.
Train yourself – they are singular. Think of the “one” (singular) in the indefinite pronoun “anyone;” think of “every-single-body” when using “everybody.”
List of Commonly Used Indefinite Pronouns
One, nobody, each, anyone, everybody, either, everyone, somebody, neither, someone, anybody
For “some” and “all,” they shift number based on usage.
Ex. Some of vegetables are eaten, yet some of the cottage cheese remains untouched.
Ex. All of the vegetables are eaten, yet all of the cottage cheese remains untouched.
In the following, underline the pronouns used and correct any that don’t agree.
- Nobody was aware that their conversation was being taped.
- Anyone coming to the costume party as a vampire should bring their fangs.
- One of the waiters was fired for failing to report all of his tips.
- We have three dogs, and each of them has their own bowl.
- During the break, everyone had to wait in line to grab their cup of coffee.
A note about Gender: Modern usage demands gender equality. You can write “his” or “her” to make the indefinite pronoun agree, but it may be more useful to simply use the plural. For example, instead of “A person should improve his or her grammar,” you can write, “People should improve their grammar.”
Pronoun Point-of-View and Consistency
Point-of-view is the perspective. The pronouns used most often (called “governing”) establish a point-of-view, or voice, in writing.
- If a piece of writing has “I, my, mine,” and the like, it is called “first person.” The writer establishes himself as an authority about the topic. The best use of this in academic writing is in a narrative, where the writer explains about a personal experience.
Ex. When I came to LCC as a freshman, I relied on a lot of help to succeed.
- If the writer uses “you, your, yours” and the like, it is called “second person.” Here the author expects a lot out of the reader. Sometimes the reader resents being told what to think, feel, believe, and so forth. Avoid this in your academic writing unless you have been given an assignment that asks you to write advice for another person.
Ex. Having a baby is the most painful experience you will ever have.
- In most college writing, students should use the impersonal, straightforward “third person” point-of-view. In this, pronouns such as “he, she, it, they, them, his, her” and the like are used.
IMPORTANT: For college writing, students should aim to be consistent no matter the point-of-view. Shifting from “I” to “you” to “them” throughout a paper can be confusing. This is called “pronoun inconsistency,” and must be avoided or corrected during revision.
Ex. I love to drive my new red Lamborghini because you get envious stares from people as you drive by. (Incorrect)
I love to drive my new red Lamborghini because I get envious stares from people as I drive by. (Correct)
Correct the shifts in consistency in the following sentences.
- A cat is a good pet because they are so independent and affectionate.
- I know fall is really here when you see the neighborhood kids playing football on the field behind my house.
- First-year students at this school are required to take a math course. You must also take a student skills course.
- Although Sharon and I were good friends, you could tell that we would not be good roommates.
- When you are pregnant, you often feel grumpy and out of sorts.