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Grammar Lesson: Agreement Between Indefinite Pronouns and Their Antecedents

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Dec 14, 2010

Singular indefinite pronouns   agree in number with their antecedents. These pronouns are anybody, anyone, anything, each, either, everybody, everyone, everything, neither, nobody, no one, nothing, one, somebody, someone and something.

  • Everyone in the church is singing his or her best. (His and her are singular pronouns, and everyone is the singular antecedent.)
  • Note: Use his or her if you assume that both genders are included, as in the preceding example.

  • Everything in this large closet has lost its value over the years. (Its is a singular pronoun that agrees in number with everything, the singular antecedent.)

Plural indefinite pronouns, including both, few, many, and several, will serve as plural antecedents.

  • Both of the singers have their fans. (Both is the plural antecedent, and their is the plural pronoun.)
  • Several of the club officials raised their hands with questions. (Several is the plural antecedent, and their is the plural pronoun.)

Some pronouns can be either singular or plural, depending upon their context within the sentence. These pronouns are all, any, more, most, none, and some.

In these instances, look to see if the object of the preposition is singular or plural. The verb and antecedent will agree with the object of the preposition.

  • All of the newspaper is wet, and I cannot read it now. (Newspaper, the object of the preposition, is singular; use the singular pronoun, it.)
  • Most of the newspapers have raised their advertising prices. (Newspapers, the object of the preposition, is plural; use the plural pronoun, their.)

Activity- Showing What You Know About Pronouns and Their Antecedents

In each sentence, underline the indefinite pronoun (the antecedent), and circle its corresponding pronoun.

  1. Anybody who is here should have (his or her, their) permission slip ready.
  2. Because none of the book is scary, you can read (it, them) late at night and not be frightened.
  3. Some of these toys have lost (its, their) appeal with these children.
  4. The producer said that any of these actresses can memorize (her, their) lines quickly.
  5. Neither of those books lends (itself, themselves) to being read in a hurry.
  6. Everybody clapped when (his or her, their) favorite dance group appeared.
  7. Several of the famous drivers have already finished (his or her, their) practice laps.
  8. We heard that one of the performers injured (his or her, their) ankle during rehearsal this morning.
  9. Is it true that someone in this classroom has had (his or her, their) speech read over the loudspeaker?
  10. All of the sports jackets have new labels on (it, them).
  11. Because most of the surgeons had concerns, the hospital administrator listened to (his or her, their) issues.
  12. A few of the senators were hurrying to (his or her, their) offices.
  13. Any of these radio stations has (its, their) loyal listeners.
  14. Many of the seagulls were hungry so (he or she, they) searched for food.
  15. Each of the printers has (its, their) own number.

Answers

(The antecedent is listed before its corresponding pronoun.)

  1. anybody; his or her
  2. none; it
  3. Some; their
  4. any; their
  5. Neither; itself
  6. Everybody; his or her
  7. Several; their
  8. one; his or her
  9. someone; his or her
  10. All; them
  11. most; their
  12. few; their
  13. Any; their
  14. Many; they
  15. Each; its
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