Language Arts: Antecedents - Tutorial
This section will cover antecedents, how to identify them, and how they're used.
- Singular antecedents should be used with singular pronouns.
- Plural antecedents should be used with plural pronouns.
The pronoun his is referring to Ben.
This means Ben is the owner of the golf clubs.
An antecedent tells what the pronoun represents. The pronoun keeps the writer of the sentence from having to repeat the antecedent throughout the paragraph.
The pronoun he represents the antecedent Bob.
Bob wanted to see the Eiffel Tower while he was on vacation.
Without the pronoun he, the writer of the sentence would have had to write the
sentence like this:
Bob wanted to see the Eiffel Tower while Bob was on vacation.
The children played happily on the playground. They had lots of fun.
The pronoun They represents the antecedent children.
Hannah picked the tomatoes from the garden. She placed them in the basket.
The pronoun she represents the antecedent Hannah. The pronoun them represents the antecedent tomatoes.
A compound antecedent can be connected by and, or, or nor. If a compound
antecedent is used, it has to be represented by a plural pronoun.
Vera and Dan are selling their home.
Neither Chuck nor Henry wanted his turn at solving the problem on the chalkboard.
Now let's see what happens when one of the antecedents is plural.
Either George or the boys will share their baseball mitt.
The plural pronoun their agrees with the plural noun boys.
Either the boys or George will share his baseball mitt.
The singular pronoun his agrees with the singular noun George.
Neither shows that the antecedents are singular. Therefore, the pronoun is also singular.
Antecedents and pronouns must agree in number.
The glass broke when it fell off the table.
The singular antecedent glass goes with the singular pronoun it.
Janie took the books off the counter and arranged them neatly on the shelf.
The plural antecedent books goes with the plural pronoun them.
Ben gave Martin his golf clubs.
The reader does not know if the golf clubs belong to Ben, and he is just letting Martin use them, or is Ben being kind and giving them to Martin because they belong to Martin.
This sentence can be rewritten as:
Ben gave his golf clubs to Martin.
We heard that they were predicting rain for the entire weekend.
Since there is no antecedent, the reader does not know what the pronoun they represents.
Reminder: Place the pronoun next to the word it is modifying to avoid confusion.
Note: Pronouns without antecedents can also lead to confusion.