Learn English Grammar Rules About Pronouns

Learn English grammar rules about pronouns to see that even "simple" pronouns are complicated when it comes to pronoun agreement and correct grammar.

If people learn English grammar, including these grammar rules related to pronoun agreement and other issues, essay writers will improve their writing. Learning these rules, along with perhaps taking grammar online classes, will help them to write clearer sentences with correct grammar.

Pronoun Agreement - The Pronoun Must Agree With the Antecedent

A pronoun is a generic noun that stands in for a more specific noun (its antecedent). Common pronouns include "I, me, he, her, it, they, and everyone." Pronouns help to distill language so that it is easier to read. For instance, sentences without pronouns like "Dr. Parker went to the store and Dr. Parker wondered what Dr. Parker's wife wanted Dr. Parker to get" would get tedious fast. Pronouns allow a writer to simplify the sentence to create "Dr. Parker went to the store and he wondered what his wife wanted him to get."

One of the major problems related to pronouns is not having proper pronoun agreement. A pronoun must agree with its antecedent (the noun that it refers to) for correct grammar. This means that a plural noun must have a plural pronoun, and a singular noun must have a singular pronoun. The proper gender must also be chosen–for instance, "Missus Violet watered her plants" shows a pronoun matching its antecedent in gender.

Certain pronouns seem plural when they are singular. Words like "everybody," "anything," "anybody," "something," and "nobody" are indefinite, singular pronouns. Even though they can encompass a large group, they should be treated the same as any other singular noun. Collective nouns, like "jury," "crowd," and "family" are similar in that they are units that should be treated as singular nouns for proper pronoun agreement. Only when people within these groups act individually do the collective nouns become plural: "The jury members chose their sides."

A compound antecedent occurs when a pronoun refers to two or more nouns. Compound antecedents that are joined with "and" have plural pronouns, but compound antecedents joined with "or" or "nor" are more tricky. In a case where nouns are combined with "or" or "nor," the pronoun should agree with the noun that it is closest to. For example, if a sentence begins with "Either the cat or the dogs" the pronoun will be plural, because "dogs" is the noun that will be closest to the pronoun.

Paper Editing to Make Pronoun References Clear

Sometimes it is not obvious which noun references which pronoun. In cases like this, it is important to learn English grammar and utilize academic editing to clarify the relationship.

Certain pronouns like "they," "that," "which," "you," "it," and "this" need to make it clear to whom or what they are referring. If the reference is unclear, simply make the antecedent clearer or change the pronoun to a noun. For instance, sometimes it is easier to pay for essay because it is unclear which idea is being referred to: "They are increasingly acting strange. This is a problem." The author could work on paper editing and replace "this" with "this increase" or "acting strange" to clarify what exactly the problem is.

Sometimes an antecedent is implied when it should be clear and without question. In addition, possessives (like "Nathaniel Hawthorne's") and other modifiers cannot serve as antecedents even though they are implied references. For instance, the sentence "In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, he critiques puritanical society" does not have correct grammar, because there is no true antecedent. Instead, using academic editing the writer may change the sentence to "In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne critiques Puritanical society," because a name is a proper antecedent.

Grammar Rules Regarding Pronoun Cases

The subjective pronoun case is used for pronouns that are acting as subjects. It is also used when a pronoun acts as a subject complement (meaning it renames the subject, as in "The caller is I"). "I," "you," and "he/she/it," are singular subjective case pronouns. "We," "you (all)," and "they" are plural subjective case pronouns.

The objective pronoun case is used for pronouns acting as direct objects, indirect objects, and objects of prepositions. Singular objective case pronouns are "me," "you," and "him/her/it." Plural objective case pronouns are "us," "you," and "them." Thus, the words "it" and "you" can be confusing as pronouns because they can be either subjective or objective.

As expected, the possessive pronoun case is used for possessive pronouns. However, it is also used for pronouns that modify a gerund (a word ending in "ing" that acts as a noun) or gerund phrase. "Her being there was an issue" is an example of a possessive pronoun modifying a gerund. "My," "your," and "his/her/its" are singular possessive case pronouns. "Our," "your," and "their" are plural possessive case pronouns.

For more information, consider taking grammar online classes or brush up on skills by taking an editing course at a local college.


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