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Agreement in Sentences Help (page 2)

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Updated on Sep 8, 2011

Pronoun Subjects and Verbs

Indefinite pronouns, such as everyone, both, few, and all, are general when referring to people, places, or things. Because we are concerned with subjects and verbs agreeing in number, it is easy to tell if most indefinite pronouns are singular or plural, with only a handful of exceptions.

Indefinite Pronouns

As with any other pronoun, a singular indefinite pronoun takes a singular verb, and a plural one takes a plural verb. When using pronouns that can be both singular and plural, you need to look at the noun being referred to by the indefinite pronoun to help you determine which verb to use:

      Most of these peaches are bruised.
      Most of his room is clean.

Antecedents and Pronouns

Here are some pronouns you need to know.

Common English Pronouns

Without pronouns, communicating would be very contrived because of the necessary repetition of nouns …

Example:

Lillian and Gina went to Florida for a long weekend. Lillian and Gina planned to meet up with Lillian and Gina's old friends Stephanie and Jean. Lillian, Gina, Stephanie, and Jean decided Lillian, Gina, Stephanie, and Jean would have lunch at Lillian, Gina, Stephanie, and Jean's old watering hole. Lillian, Gina, Stephanie, and Jean had a great time and Lillian, Gina, Stephanie, and Jean decided to have lunch there with Lillian, Gina, Stephanie, and Jean again soon.

Luckily, pronouns can take the place of nouns and make a story less boring. The antecedent is the word the pronoun replaces.

Example:

Adel liked the new headphones she bought this afternoon.

The pronoun she refers to Adel, so Adel is the antecedent. Because Adel is one girl, she is used instead of they. There must be agreement of gender, number, and person between an antecedent and its pronoun.

Antecedents and Pronouns

Let's see why that is not only important, but necessary:

    Mrs. Parker shopped for a pair of strappy sandals in the perfect shade of chartreuse green and yellow for his new sundress.

It is obvious that Mrs. Parker is a female, so the only appropriate possessive pronoun to agree would be her, not his as in the sentence. Try another:

    Rosemarie yawned and put their feet up to take his afternoon nap.

Rosemarie is tired and wants to take a nap, but the sentence has her putting someone else's feet up and, unfortunately, taking someone else's nap for him.

When a sentence has multiple subjects, pronoun ambiguity sets in for listeners or readers. With too many he's, she's, and they's, the message may become garbled, and the audience gets lost.

Example:

Kris told Nancy that Fran ran into Hali after she left class, and over coffee, she spilled the beans that she heard her boyfriend say that he thought she was boring.

That is confusing. Who left class? Hali, Fran, or Kris? Who spilled the beans? Kris? Perhaps Fran or Nancy? And whose boyfriend thinks she's boring?

Tip: A sentence may contain more than one noun/pronoun—verb pair. Make sure that each pair agrees in number.

Exercises for this concept can be found at Agreement in Sentences Practice.

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