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Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement

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Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement

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[edit section] Inside SAT Writing Section Guide: Identifying Sentence Errors

  1. Breaking Down Sentence Error Questions
  2. Subject/Verb Agreement
  3. Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement
  4. Verb Tenses
  5. Adjectives, Adverbs
  6. Verbals
  7. Parallel Structure
  8. Idiomatic Expressions in English


[edit section] Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement

SAT  Writing

Now how about pronoun/antecedent agreement? Like subject/verb agreement questions, these are also easier in nature and quite easy to spot. The trick is, like with subject/verb questions, to spot the pronoun and the antecedent. What is a pronoun? A word like me, you, he, him, her, they, and so forth. In other words, a pronoun is a general noun that replaces a specific noun, called the antecedent. For example:



Terry was mad because he didn't make the team.


In the above sentence, "he" is the general noun (pronoun) and "Terry" is the specific noun (antecedent). The College Board will throw in a few simplistic pronoun/antecedent questions, like:


Terry was mad because him didn't make the team.


Obviously, "him" is the incorrect word here. You know that because it just doesn't "sound" right. But what is the reason for this grammar rule?


Actually, "he" and "him" are two different types of pronouns. "He" is a subjective pronoun, while "him" is an objective pronoun. What this means is that "he" is a pronoun that replaces the subject of the sentence while "him" replaces a direct or indirect object in the sentence. Here is a rundown of objective and subjective pronouns:


  • Objective: me, you, him, her, it, us, them, whom
  • Subjective: I, you, he, she, it, we, they, who


Now apply the pronoun case rules to the following sentence:


The teacher told me that I gave him a hard time when I wouldn't tell him to who I handed the paper.


There is one error in the above sentence (with many other correctly-used pronouns). Can you spot it? Actually, "who" is a subjective pronoun, but the word "to" indicates that you need the objective "whom." The sentence should read: "...wouldn't tell him to whom I handed the paper." (In general, always remember that "to whom" is the correct construction when you see the word "to")


College Board also loves to include ambiguous pronoun questions. Read the following sentence and see if you can decipher the meaning:


Sal raced Harry and he was clearly the winner.


Who was the winner? See, the problem in the above sentence is that we don't know who "he" is. This is the case in which the antecedent is ambiguous. The sentence should be changed so that "he" is corrected to either "Sal" or "Harry."


Finally, watch out for comparisons in pronouns. You should make sure that the case of a pronoun matches the other when compared. For example:


I am a better writer than she.


This will sound strange, but it is actually correct. "I" is the subjective case, and so is "she." The sentence: "I am a better writer than her" may sound right, but it is actually incorrect.

Use the knowledge you have acquired today to take the first SAT Writing: ISE quiz. Although we haven't covered nearly all of the rules, you should have a good grasp of the subject/verb and pronoun/antecedent agreement questions. In our next lesson, we will look at verb tense errors and how to avoid they. (Just kidding! It should be "how to avoid them.") Good luck!

[edit section] Additional Resources

[edit section] Inside SAT Writing Section Guide: Identifying Sentence Errors

  1. Breaking Down Sentence Error Questions
  2. Subject/Verb Agreement
  3. Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement
  4. Verb Tenses
  5. Adjectives, Adverbs
  6. Verbals
  7. Parallel Structure
  8. Idiomatic Expressions in English

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