The UVic Writer's Guide


Pronoun Agreement


Pronouns agree in gender and number. This rule is not difficult to remember if you are writing about individual people or inanimate objects (where it suffices for everything). However, collective pronouns present more of a problem. Indefinite words such as anyone, anything, someone, everybody and no one take singular pronouns. Pronouns are also an issue when using gender-specific language.

The antecedent is the noun to which the pronoun refers. Make sure that it is clear what the antecedent of a pronoun is; otherwise, confusion and ambiguity will prevail. Also, make sure that you are referring to the correct noun. For example, in the following sentence the pronoun their refers to the noun people and not to one:

You are one of those people who like to keep their skeletons in the closet.

In this next sentence, however, the pronoun his refers to one and not to members:

I am the only one of the Lodge members who never wears his fez.

Be aware of the case of the pronoun. (For a discussion of case, see the section on grammar, 1.5.) If it is acting as the subject of a verb, use the subjective form:

It was she.

She is the subjective completion of "it was." Many people would automatically write "It was her," but the verb to be takes the same case after as before.

If the pronoun is acting as an object, use the objective form, even if the first person is involved:

Josh was angry withhim and me.

Many writers believe it is improper to write "him and me," but this is only true in the subjective case. It is not correct to write this:

Ken and me went to the ballgame,

But it is also incorrect to write

The rain soaked Ken and I,

or

They sent the invitation to Ken and I.

Use Iin the subjective case and me in the objective case, no matter what other pronouns are found in the sentence. More information is available in the discussion of agreement as a grammatical issue.


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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated September 21, 1995