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Antecedent-Pronoun Agreement
by Dr. Brian Campbell

All Students:  Please read the following information on antecedent/pronoun agreement.  http://www.towson.edu/ows/pro_antagree.htm   

Also, see:  Pronoun-Antecedent and Pronoun-Antecedent

Please review the following examples (from actual student papers) regarding antecedent-pronoun agreement.

Examples:

1.      Student:  “Intentional plagiarism is caused by the student not planning well to finish their paper in a timely manner.”

            The word “student” is singular; the pronoun “their” is plural.  Here was my initial editing:

      Intentional plagiarism is caused by the student not planning well to finish their (his/her) paper in a timely manner.

      Actually, even after this correction, the sentence is still somewhat confusing and not well written.  Here is what I think he/she was trying to say:

      Intentional plagiarism typically occurs when students fail to plan their work in advance and are under intense pressure to finish their writing assignments in a timely fashion.

2.      Student:  “A student who questions their own writing ability may feel intimidated by the work that is found online and may take the risk of submitting work that is not their own.”

      Once again, the word “student” is singular; the pronoun “their” is plural.  Here is my initial editing:

      A student who questions their (his or her) own writing ability may feel intimidated by the work that is found online and may take the risk of submitting work that is not their (his or her) own.

      Now, if you don’t want to keep saying “his/her,” which I would strongly recommend in most cases, then you should use the plural form throughout, like this:

     Students who question their own writing ability may feel intimidated by the work that is found online and may take the risk of submitting work that is not their own.

     Once again, I think this sentence could be significantly improved, and here is what I think the student was intending to say:

      Students who question their own writing ability may feel intimidated by professionally written articles found online; because   they also want to sound “professional” and erudite, they decide to “roll the dice,” and take the risk of submitting work that  is not their own.

 

3.      Student:  “The bottom line: many ‘excuses’ can be made for why students plagiarize, but the heart of it lies within the person and the values they hold true.”

 The word “person” is singular; the pronoun “they” is plural.  Here was my initial editing:

      The bottom line: many ‘excuses’ can be made for why students plagiarize, but the heart of it lies within the person and the values theyhe/she hold’s to be true. 

      Actually, the sentence is still not well written and does not really convey what I think he/she was intending.  Here is what I believe the student was trying to say:

      The bottom line:  students make up many “excuses” for why they plagiarize, but the real cause of plagiarism can be traced to flaws in the underlying value system adopted by the student.

 

4.      Student:  “If someone waits until the last minute, they will not make sufficient progress and may copy part of the page instead of restating and citing the article.”

      The word “someone” is singular; the pronoun “they” is plural. 

      If someone waits until the last minute, they he/she will not make sufficient progress and may copy part of the page instead of restating and citing the article.

 

5.      Each of the following pronouns is singular and requires a singular pronoun or singular verb for agreement:

None; everyone; everybody; anyone; each; neither; none; nobody, someone; somebody; anybody


Examples:

None of the apples was on the table.  (Think of “none” as a contraction for “not one”)

None of the students liked his/her grade.

Everyone took his/her place in line.

Everybody took his/her place in line.

Each person in the room put his/her apple on the table.

Anyone can get a good grade if he or she follows the proper rules of grammar.

Each of the apples is ripe.

Neither of the students is on the debate team.

Nobody is better than anyone else.

Someone put his or her apple on the table.

 

6.      The following indefinite pronouns take plural possessive pronouns or plural verbs:

            Both; few; many; several

            Examples:

 

         Both of the apples were on the table. 

         Both of the apples are ready to pick.

         Both of them wanted to go.

         Both of them wanted to have their own breakfast.

        Only a few of the apples were ready to pick.

 
Few of the apples are ready to pick.


  Many people like their eggs sunny-side up.

  Many students are going home for spring break.

       Several of the apples are on the table.

  Several people wanted their eggs sunny-side up.

  Several cooked their own eggs.