copyright 1996 Cynthia Joyce Clay

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One of the most common errors to make is to use pronouns when a specific noun is needed. One common occurance of this is when a sentence begins with a prepositional phrase and then a pronoun is used as the subject of the sentence. This is a bad practice because it is awkward and unclear. The best solution to the problem is also the simplest--replace the pronoun with a specific noun. For instance, in the sentence

In the story, it says the the hero had attended Miami-Dade Community College.

the word 'it' is being used as the subject and refers to the word 'story' which is the object of the preposition 'in.' However, a story is a thing and can not say anything, so the prepositional phrase must be left alone and the pronoun 'it' replaced with a word that would refer to a PERSON who writes stories. The sentence should be corrected to read:

In the story, THE AUTHOR says the hero....

Another way to fix it is to cut 'THE AUTHOR says' so that the sentence reads, 'In the story, the hero..'..


The vague pronoun in these sentences has been crossed out and replaced with a specific noun. Note that a person does things; things do not do things.

1. On the show, they said people who continue to learn grow more dendrites.

2. In this place, they learn about grammar.

3. At home, they are all mean.

4. At the concert, they played woodwind instruments.

5. At the opera, they all sang.

6. At the Olympics, they all go to parties every night.

7. On the radio,they played really great music.

8. At the mall, they have everything on sale this week.


Sometimes, the object of the preposition will be a noun that represents not just a building, but a group of people. When this is the case, a vague pronoun used as subject can be replaced by the noun that is the object of the preposition. Naturally, in these cases, the preposition must be taken out of the sentence. In the sentence,

In town, they think that the hills are haunted.

the pronoun 'it' is vague and so must be removed. The word 'town' can refer to a place, and it can also refer to a group of people. Since 'town' can refer to a group of people, it can be used as the subject. To use 'town' as the subject you MUST REMOVE THE PREPOSITION 'in'.' This is the revised sentence:

The TOWN THINKS that the hills are haunted.

Notice that the verb has been made to agree with the subject.


In the sentences that follow, the noun that is used as an object of a preposition can refer to a place or a group of people. The vague pronoun has been crossed out and replaced with the object of the prepostion. The revised sentence has been adjusted so that the subject and verb agree.

1. At our church, they have a bake sale once a year.

2. In her university, they consider studying to be entertainment.

3. In the nation, they were proud to have sent a man to the moon.

4. In the class, they write papers on quasars.

5. Inthe troupe of players, they interprete the play She Stoops to Conquer.

6. In the club, they vote for their first woman president.

7. In the college, they award Associate degrees.

8. In the ballet company they rehearse "Rubies."

If you would like to learn more grammar, just go to the Grammar Table of Contents

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