Grammar Lesson: Pronouns and Their Antecedents

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

Take the sentence, "The veterinarian took pride in her work." The pronoun her refers back to veterinarian, the subject of the sentence. In this context, veterinarian is the pronoun’s antecedent, the word that the pronoun refers back to in the sentence. Usually, the antecedent comes before the pronoun in the sentence. In all cases, the pronoun and its antecedent must agree in number and gender.

In the following sentences, the antecedent is italicized, and the pronoun is underlined.

    The flag has lost its colors over these two years. (singular antecedent and pronoun)
    Our teachers surely know their subjects well. (plural antecedent and pronoun)
    Dogs know their capabilities. (plural antecedent and pronoun)


In the following sentences, circle the antecedent, and underline the pronoun.

  1. This superficial wound should heal itself.
  2. These girls recalled their passwords.
  3. The last time that I spoke with Luca, he said that he would be here on time.
  4. When Jim and Joe play their guitars in school, they attract a large crowd.
  5. Since we called our cousins on the telephone, they have been more friendly towards us.


(The antecedent is listed first; the pronoun is listed after it.)

  1. wound; itself
  2. girls; their
  3. Luca; he
  4. Jim, Joe; they
  5. cousins; they
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