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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pronoun Antecedents

Grammar Rule #3: A pronoun must agree with its antecedent in gender.

What is “gender”?
Masculine (refers to the male sex): he, him, his
         Example: Sam [antecedent] said he wanted his own book to read.
Feminine (refers to the female sex): she, her, hers
         Example: Maria [antecedent] said she wanted her own book to read.

Neuter (refers to no sex): it, its
Example: The book [antecedent] lacked half its pages.

How do you choose which pronoun to use when antecedents differ in gender?

If the antecedents are connected by and, the pronoun is plural (they, them, their).
Example: Sam and Maria ate in the cafeteria, where they shared their sandwiches.

Of course, if only one of the antecedents is referred to, the pronoun takes that antecedent’s gender: Sam and Maria ate in the cafeteria, where she shared her sandwich with him.

If the antecedents are singular and are connected by or or nor, rewrite the sentence to avoid the horror of being sexist.
         Example: Some boy or girl left [his? her?] book on the chair.
REWRITE: Some boy or girl left a book on the chair.
INCORRECT: Some boy or girl left their book on the chair. (Do not use a plural pronoun to refer to singular antecedents.)

Grammar Challenge: Your turn! Which answer is correct?
         1. Amy searched the house and garage for (her, their) glasses.
         2. Amy and her mom searched the house and garage for both (her, their) glasses.
         3. Neither Amy nor her mom left (her, their) glasses in the car.
         4. Charlie’s parakeet ate all (his, its) birdseed in one afternoon.
         5. Charlie and the parakeet sit on (his, their) porch to watch the sun rise.
         6. REWRITE: Either Aunt Clara or Uncle Rick gave their parakeet to Charlie.
(Answers are below.)

         1. her
         2. their
         3. her
         4. its        
5. his
         6. REWRITE: Charlie got the parakeet from either Aunt Clara or Uncle Rick. 

FICTION WRITERS: WIN A CRITIQUE! See this coming Saturday's post.

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