A pronoun takes the place of a noun, called its antecedent or referent.
The referent needs to be clear and explicit.
Clear referent: Amanda hung her coat in the hall closet.
Unclear referents: After the Blue Team beat the Orange Team, they gave them the second-place trophy.
The pronoun and its referent needs to agree in number, gender, and person:
- Number agreement
- A singular pronoun should refer to a singular antecedent:
The boy rode his bicycle.
- a plural pronoun should refer to a plural antecedent:
The boys rode their bicycles.
- Not: A police office must display their badges.
- Gender agreement: The pronoun must match the referent in gender:
- The police office must display his or her badge.
- Person agreement: e.g. A third person pronoun should refer to a third person antecedent:
- Everyone wants his or her own room. (NOT your room)
When an indefinite pronoun (each, some, all, none)is the antecedent:
- Each of the students owns his or her own bicycle. (singular)
- Some brought their own coats. (plural)
- None of the answers was correct. (singular)
Who, which, that are relative pronouns whose referents should follow these guidelines:
- who, whose, whom should be used for people:
The man who washed my car did a good job.
- which should be used for inanimate objects:
The house next door, which was painted red, was considered an eyesore..
- that should be used to restrict meaning (so is NOT set off by commas:
The house that was painted red was considered an eyesore.