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Pronoun Use

Using Pronouns: Make sure they refer to something
• Artificialized management has, in effect, bought fishing at the expense of another and perhaps higher recreation; it has paid dividends to one citizen out of capital stock belonging to all. • Jeff loves the chili in the Tiger’s Den even if it makes him feel sick.

Antecedents
• A pronoun needs a noun (or another pronoun) to refer to (this noun is the antecedent of the pronoun). • A pronoun needs to refer unambiguously to its antecedent:
– If that makes living a morally decent life extremely arduous, well, then that is the way things are. If we don’t do it, then we should at least know that we are failing to live a morally decent life. (What does “it” refer to?)

A pronoun’s use is ambiguous or unclear when:
• The pronoun could refer to more than one word: – Although the core membership of the party was stable, there were at least a hundred more supporters who had to be prevented from defecting. The loyal members used lavish entertainments and their own popularity to entice them back to meetings at Devonshire House. – “their” and “them” refer to different groups – (use a term like “waverers” or “defectors” instead of “them”)

A pronoun’s use is ambiguous or unclear when:
• The intended antecedent is a modifier, not a noun:
– In Beth Johnson’s essay “The Professor Is a Dropout,” she tells the story of Guadelupe Quintanilla. – Correct: In the essay “The Professor Is a Dropout,” Beth Johnson tells the story of Quadelupe Quintanilla.

A pronoun’s use is ambiguous or unclear when:
• The pronoun has no antecedent:
– Jeff reminded his class that he would teach them this again later in the semester. – What does “this” refer to? – Jeff reminded his class that he would teach them the difference between ambiguous and unambiguous pronoun use again later in the semester.

And, Finally: Pronouns have to agree with their antecedents in number
• Plural nouns (students) need plural pronouns (they, them, their) • Singular nouns (student) needs singular pronouns (she, her, hers) • Ex: After I collect your papers, you will not have to worry about it for a week. • Correct: After I collect your papers, you will not have to worry about them for a week.

Identify the pronouns and antecedents in this paragraph:
• One out of every seven Democratic party voters was not registered as a Democrat at the beginning of the year, and 60 percent of them cast their ballot for Obama, according to the exit polls. Clinton fared better with voters who made up their mind in the last week, the exit polls showed. Fifty-eight percent of those voters said they chose the New York senator. That includes voters who made up their mind in the aftermath of last week's heated Democratic debate. Clinton also got the support of older voters, with 61 percent of those age 65 or older backing her, according to the polls.

• One out of every seven Democratic party voters was not registered as a Democrat at the beginning of the year, and 60 percent of them cast their ballot for Obama, according to the exit polls. Clinton fared better with voters who made up their minds in the last week, the exit polls showed. Fifty-eight percent of those voters said they chose the New York senator. That includes voters who made up their mind in the aftermath of last week's heated Democratic debate. Clinton also got the support of older voters, with 61 percent of those age 65 or older backing her, according to the polls.

• One that watches The History Channel can learn information about important events such as the strategies and weapons of warfare they used during World War I or World War II. (rewrite this sentence to avoid the ambiguous use of pronouns.)

Possible revision
• Viewers of The History Channel can learn about strategies and weapons used by both the Allied and Central Powers in WWI and the Allied and Axis Powers in WWII.

Workshop
• In your groups or pairs: • Read a paragraph from one of your papers, one sentence at a time; • Circle pronouns and identify their specific antecedents by drawing an arrow to them. 1) If you do not find a specific antecedent for a pronoun, work with the writer to rewrite the sentence. 2) If there is a specific antecedent, be sure it is a noun, not a modifier. 3) Finally, also assuming there is a specific antecedent, be sure it “agrees” with the noun (antecedent) it refers to 4) Make a plan to do this on your own for your whole paper later at home