Module 2, Pronouns, Lesson 9:

Pronoun Agreement


Definition: Ante (not anti) means before. The root cedere means to go. The antecedent goes before the pronoun. It is the noun that the pronoun replaces. A pronoun must match, or agree, with its antecedent in number, person, and gender.

You can be sure a noun is the antecedent if you can use that noun in place of the pronoun.

My mother gave me her bracelet.
My mother gave me my mother's bracelet.

Number Agreement

Singular nouns must match with singular pronouns. Plural nouns must match with plural pronouns.

Lisa didn't come to school because she was sick. (singular noun, singular pronoun)

After Sasha and Aaron climbed the Great Wall of China, they were totally exhausted. (two nouns, plural pronoun)

The two dogs disappeared as they raced over the hill. (plural noun, plural pronoun)

If two nouns are joined with the conjunction and, use a plural pronoun. If they are joined by or or nor, use a singular pronoun.

John and Randy brought their books to class.
John or Randy brought his book to class.
Neither John nor Randy brought his book to class.

Person Agreement

When writing about yourself, use I, me, we, or us. When writing directly to someone, use you. When writing about someone (or something) else, use he, she, it, him, her, they, or them. Use it when you don't know the gender of the thing you're talking about.

My name is Kitty and I am an English teacher.
The pronoun I replaces the noun Kitty. You would not say My name is Kitty and Kitty is an English teacher.

Carmen felt nervous when Melvin asked her to dance.
The little fish knew it was doomed when the shark came around the corner.
I'm going to the movies with Joey and Michael. Do you know them?

Keep in mind that when using the pronouns I, me, we, us, and you, it's not always necessary to have an antecedent.

Are you going to the dance on Saturday?
When we ask someone a question, we already know who "you" is, so it's not necessary to say the person's name beforehand.

Our parents always threw wonderful birthday parties for us.
Can you give me a ride, please?

Gender Agreement

When writing about men, use he, him, and his. When writing about women, use she and her. If you don't know the gender, use he or she, him or his, or his or her. Only use they and their if the antecedent is plural.

The blind man was about to walk into the street, but I ran over and helped him.
The woman arrived at the store, but she had forgotten her wallet and had to go back home.

Using their instead of his or her is becoming acceptable in spoken English, but make sure to use his or her in written English. If using his or her sounds awkward, an easy way to fix this problem is to make the subject plural.
Error Corrections
A new doctor must pass their certification exam before getting a license.

A new doctor must pass his or her certification exam before getting a license.

We don't know the gender of the doctor.

New doctors must pass their certification exams before getting licenses.

Notice how you also have to make the words exam and license plural in this sentence. That's because each doctor takes his or her own exam and receives his or her own license.

Practice What You've Learned

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Part 1

Click on the correct antecedent noun for each underlined pronoun. Note that some sentences may have more than one antecedent noun.
When my ferret hid my brother's toys, he had to look everywhere for them.
The truck driver got a ticket when he drove above the speed limit.
When we bought our new house, it was ready to move into.
Monica and Angie were late for their meeting.
The dinosaur built a nest for its eggs.
The plumber had to use all his tools to get his job done.
When my uncle visited China, he walked along the Great Wall.
When we bought our new house, it was ready to move into.
My favorite cereal is Frosted Flakes, but my mom says it's too sugary.
My father works very hard at his job.

Part 2

Fill in the blank with the correct pronoun.
When James, the tour guide, took us to see the Eiffel tower, told us all about its history.
he, she, they, he or she
Each student must have completed study guide before taking the test.
his, her, their, his or her
All the visitors to this hotel are asked to complete a survey about experiences.
his, her, their, his or her
Each soldier needs to make sure weapon is cleaned.
his, her, their, his or her
Every man in the bathroom needs to pick up own towel.
his, her, their, his or her
At the end of camp, each camper needs to clean up area in the cabin.
his, her, their, his or her
George and Erik remembered to bring skateboards after school.
his, her, their, his or her
The father or his children loaded suitcases into the car.
his, her, their, his or her
Mrs. Emerson found dog in the neighbor's yard when the gate was left open.
his, her, their, his or her
The electrician must have insurance up to date before working on this project.
his, her, their, his or her