THE NUMERICAL WAY TO PROPER PRONOUN REFERENCE

copyright 1997 Cynthia Joyce Clay

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THE GRAMMAR TABLE OF CONTENTS
PRONOUN AGREEMENT


Pronouns must agree in NUMBER and GENDER with the noun they represent.

NUMBER? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Number refers to whether the noun is singular or plural.

For instance, in this list:

girl

children

hat

kittens

people

dream

the nouns themselves tell how many there are.

There is one girl, two or more children, one hat, two or more kittens, two or more people, one dream.

BUT GENDER? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

It means that nouns have SEX. They do not engage in sex; they are male, female, or neuter . Gender is another name for sexual category. For instance,

A BOY is male.

A WOMAN is female.

A CHAIR is a thing, so "chair" is neuter. It has no gender.

A HORSE, grammatically speaking, is also a thing, so it, too, is a thing. Animals are considered neuter in English grammar.

PRONOUN AGREEMENT

When you use pronouns to replace nouns, you have to make sure that the pronoun agrees in both NUMBER and GENDER with the noun it replaces.

TO CHECK FOR AGREEMENT FOLLOW THIS PROCEDURE:

1. Find every single NOUN in the sentence.

Label each noun in terms of NUMBER and GENDER. That is, write above the noun M, F, or Thing, and 1 or 2 depending on what applies.

3. Find every single PRONOUN in the sentence.

4. Label the pronouns the same way you did the nouns--for NUMBER and GENDER.

NOW HERE IS THE TRICKY PART

Each pronoun may only refer to ONE NOUN. This means that if you have two nouns in the senterce, both of which are single males, and the sentence has only one female pronoun, naturally there is a problem. A female pronoun can not represent a male noun, and one pronoun can not represent two nouns

SO, FOR STEP 5 YOU HAVE TO MATCH UP YOUR PRONOUNS WITH YOUR NOUNS.

6. If you find the GENDERS do not match, then the sentence is WRONG.

7. If you find the pronoun could match in NUMBER to MORE than ONE noun, then the sentence is WRONG.

For instance, this sentence is wrong because it matches in NUMBER to more than one noun: "Susie told Marta that she was happy to see Tom." There are TWO SINGLE female nouns, and so the pronoun 'she' refers to both "Susie' and 'Marta.' WRONG.

The only way to be perfectly sure that the pronouns refer clearly and correctly to the nouns is TO MATCH THEM UP FOR NUMBER AND GENDER!


There are exercises on pronouns to help you.

There is more information on grammar. Just go to the Grammar Table of Contents.