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Grammar Study Guide (page 2)

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Updated on Sep 28, 2011

Do You Know These Terms?

  • Antecedent: In the last example, Janie is the specific noun that she and her replace; so Janie is the antecedent. The presence of the antecedent in a sentence is as important as which pronouns substitute for it.
  • Contractions: Two words made into one by omitting letters and using an apostrophe to highlight the omission creates a contraction.
  • Subjective, Objective, and Possessive Cases: Persons or things (nouns) acting on other things are subjects. Pronouns that refer to these subjects are in the subjective case (I, you, he, she, we, they, who). Persons or things acted upon (in other words, they are not performing the action) are objects. Pronouns that refer to these objects are in the objective case (me, you, him, her, us, them, whom). Subjects or objects that claim ownership of something are possessors. Pronouns that claim their possessions are in the possessive case (my, your, his, her, our, your, whose).
  • Avoid Ambiguous Pronoun References. The antecedent that a pronoun refers to must be clearly stated and in close proximity to its pronoun. If more subjects than one are present, indicate which subject is the antecedent. → When Katherine and Melissa left for England, she promised to write me about all their adventures. Who is she? Katherine or Melissa?

Pronouns Should

  • Agree in number with their antecedent: Singular antecedents use singular pronouns, and plural antecedents use plural pronouns.
  • Compound antecedents joined by and use plural pronouns. → A horse and a donkey make a mule. The horse and the donkey are singular subjects, but together they create one plural subject.
  • Compound antecedents joined by or or nor use pronouns that agree with the nearest antecedent. → Neither my one cat nor my four dogs are as difficult to maintain as my one pet fish.
  • Collective nouns use singular pronouns unless it is obvious that each person or thing in the group acts individually. → The company mandated a universal naptime for all its employees. The company is a group of many people, but in the first sentence the group is acting as a single entity, so the pronoun (its) is singular.
  • Persons receive the pronouns who, whom, or whose, not that or which.
  • After is, are, was, or were, use the subjective case.
  • Pronouns preceding or following infinitive verbs (the plain form of a verb preceded by to) take the objective case. → Billy Jean begged him to play catch, but he did not want to play ball with her at that moment. In the first clause, him is the subject; in the second clause, her is an object. Despite their difference, both take the objective case because of the infinitive to play.

Grammar Terms

Practice exercises for these concepts can be found at:

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