Pronouns play an important role in the English language. Pronouns replace nouns, so without pronouns, your writing could be repetitive. Here are a few common errors to watch out for with pronouns.
The antecedent is the noun or pronoun that the pronoun replaced. The pronoun must agree with the antecedent in number (plural or singular) and gender (masculine or feminine).
Here is an example that shows correct pronoun-antecedent agreement:
Pronoun = her (singular, feminine)
Antecedent = girl (singular, feminine)
In other cases, it can be more difficult to decide on the correct pronoun. This is especially true when indefinite pronouns are used in a sentence. Indefinite pronouns, like everyone, somebody, and nothing, don't refer to a specific person or thing.
The pronoun "their" is often used with singular indefinite pronouns, but this isn't always correct in formal writing. Here is an example that shows a pronoun-antecedent agreement error:
Pronoun = their (plural)
Antecedent = Everyone (singular)
The above example could be corrected in a few ways:
Pronouns also need to have a clear antecedent. However, sometimes a sentence seems to have two possible antecedents. If this is the case, rewrite the sentence. Take a look at the following incorrect sentence that has an unclear pronoun reference:
Pronoun = he
Antecedent = unclear (Who went to hospital? The goalie or the defenceman?)
Since it is unclear who had to go to the hospital, the sentence should be rewritten:
There has to be a noun or pronoun within the sentence that can act as an antecedent. The pronouns it, this, that, and which can lead to a vague pronoun reference when they refer to something mentioned earlier in a different sentence:
Pronoun = it
Antecedent = vague (What created chaos? The construction or the changed route?)
In the above example, the pronoun "It" in the second sentence is vague because it has no antecedent. However, there are possible antecedents in the first sentence. To fix the sentence, replace the pronoun:
Another situation to watch out for is implied pronouns. Remember, the antecedent needs to be present in the sentence. Here's an example of a sentence with no antecedent for the pronoun:
Pronoun = them
Antecedent = implied (Who do people get frustrated with? Meterologists)
The sentence needs to be rewritten by replacing the pronoun with a noun: