Pronouns and Antecedents

Grammar Study Guide


Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement

→A pronoun must agree in number, person, and gender with its antecedent

Bill brought his gerbil to school.

(The antecedent in this sentence is Bill; it is to Bill that the pronoun his refers.  Both the pronoun and its antecedent are singular, third person, and masculine; therefore the pronoun is said to agree with its antecedent.)


→Use a singular pronoun to refer to such antecedents as each, either, neither, one, anyone, anybody, everyone, everybody, somebody, another, nobody, and a person. 


One of the rowboats is missing its (not their) oars.


**Note**When a person or everyone is used to refer to both sexes or either sex, you will have to choose whether to offer optional pronouns or rewrite the sentence.


               A person must learn to wait his or her turn. (optional pronoun)

               People must learn to wait their turn. (rewritten in plural form)


→Two or more antecedents joined by and are considered plural; two or more singular antecedents joined by or or nor are referred to by a singular pronoun.


               Tom and Bob are finishing their assignment.

               Either Connie or Sue left her headset in the library.


**Note**If one of the antecedents is masculine and one feminine, the pronouns should likewise be masculine and feminine.


               Is either Dave or Phyllis bringing his or her Frisbee?


**Note** If one of the antecedents joined by or or nor is singular and one is plural, the pronoun is made to agree with the nearer antecedent.


               Neither the manager nor the players were crazy about their new uniforms.

Relative Pronouns

→The relative pronouns who and whom are often confused.  If you can put the pronoun “he” in the blank it is “who.”  If you can put “him” it is “whom.”

                              Who = he

                              Whom = him


→Who – used with a person, followed by a verb

Example: I know the PERSON who lives here. (PERSON is the antecedent of who)

→Whom – used with a person, followed by a noun and then a verb

               Example: I know the STUDENT whom the principal yelled at. (STUDENT is the antecedent of whom)

→That: used with a thing (It is essential clauses:  The sentence is incomplete w/out the clause)

Example: I don’t like movies that are violent (You need “that” to complete the sentence.  W/out it the sentence is incomplete.)

→Which: used with a thing (It is nonessential clauses: the sentence is still complete w/out the clause—usually set off by commas)

Example: Twilight, which is a book Stephanie Meyer wrote, is a best seller. (If you take out “which is a book Stephanie Meyer wrote” the sentence still makes sense.)

Using commas with quotation marks

→Quotation marks are used to punctuate titles of songs, poems, short stories, episodes or TV programs, chapters of books, or articles in a newspaper and magazine. 

               “Even Flow” (song)

               “A Song for Emily” (short story)

               “Warm Welcome in Tokyo” (short story)

               “Lady in the Cupboard” (magazine article)


**Note** In titles, capitalize the first word, the last word, and every word in between except articles (a, an, the) prepositions, conjunctions.  Follow this rule for titles of books, newspapers, magazines, poems, plays, songs, articles, films, works or art, pictures, and stories.  Also underline all books, plays, newspapers, and magazines.


                              Going to Meet the Man                  Chicago Tribune “Nothing Gold Can Stay”


                                             A Midsummer Night’s Dream        “Jim Crow—a National Disgrase”


→Periods and commas are always placed inside quotation marks.


“Dr. Slaughter wants you to have liquids, Will,” Mama said anxiously.  “He said not to give you any solid foods tonight.”

“No,” the taxi driver said curtly, “I cannot get you to the airport in fifteen minutes.”


→An exclamation point or a question mark is placed inside quotation marks when it punctuates the quotation; it is placed outside when it punctuates the main sentence.


               Ms. Arbogast asked, “Do you know how proud you made me?”

               What do you suppose it means when a vampire says, “Well, of course, you’re welcome to stay the night”?

Verb Tense

→Tense indicates time.  Each verb has three tenses: Past, Present, and Future.


Past Tense:  expresses action that is completed at a particular time in the past.


               They forgot that just ninety days separated them from seventh grade status.


Present Tense:  expresses action that is happening at the present time, or action that happens regularly.


               In September, sophomores smirk and joke about the “little sevies.”


Future Tense:  expresses action that will take place in the future.


               They will remember in three years because they will be on the bottom again.






will involve



will drink