The University of Waikato - Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato
Student Learning
Waikato Home Waikato Home > Student Life > Student Learning > Grammar
Staff + Student Login

Key:

Hover over the grey underlined or bold words for pop-up notes.

~~~

*Asterisk = examples of errors or poor constructions*.

Student Learning: Grammar

Pronouns and their antecedants - Lesson one

  1. 1.1 The basic idea:

A mother can always recognise her own baby's crying.

The builder needs his tools.

An antecedent is a word that appears early in a sentence or paragraph, one that later words may refer to or replace—such as 'mother' in the above example. A pronoun (like 'he, or him') usually has a noun (or another pronoun) that serves as its antecedent.
This is useful because it reduces the clutter of having to repeat the noun in the sentence.
What is important to note here is that because the subject is one mother, the pronoun 'her' must be singular.

Fun explanation: watch the BBC's video and try their three games on pronouns: (→hover for preview←) BBC lesson on pronouns. (Not iPad friendly).

preview of BBC's pronouns
  1. 1.2 Plural pronouns

Builders need their tools.

Mothers can always recognise their own babies' cries.

In this case the antecedent 'builders' is plural, so it needs a plural pronoun 'their'. The same applies for 'mothers'.

  1. 1.3 The problem for you:

What about when you are speaking about a child, or a person, or someone ... a single person but you cannot assume on the gender? This is when mistakes can happen. The following example has a solution to this problem:

Every individual child should have his or her identity and sense of belonging acknowledged in the classroom so he or she can flourish.

We recognise that this is a peculiar problem in English; it doesn't handle this aspect of the language very well at all.