Pronouns(see also Subject-Verb agreement)
Pronouns can be classified according to how they are used in sentences. Such classification can help in determining the appropriate pronoun to choose in certain situations. The following chart identifies these pronouns and how they function:
Most of the time, choosing the appropriate pronoun presents few problems, but a couple of situations should be noted.
-- Pronouns in compound constructions
Each of the pronouns in the following sentences is used as the object of the verb:
The judge gave John and me a vote of confidence.
To determine which pronoun form is correct in the above examples, omit the other element and select the pronoun that sounds appropriate to complete the sentence.
The judge gave me a vote of confidence.
-- Pronouns in prepositional phrases
Pronouns that appear in prepositional phrases are always object pronouns.
The judge awarded the novice trophy to Jim and me.
-- Pronouns following linking verbs
Pronouns that appear following linking verbs (forms of the verb to be) are always "subject" pronouns. That means the order of the sentence could be reversed with the pronoun functioning as the subject of the sentence.
The person who has to decide is I, not you. (I am the person who has to decide, not you.)
-- Pronoun/appositive noun constructions
If a noun immediately follows either the pronoun "we" or "us" and this noun renames the pronoun, then imagine as if the appositive noun were omitted.
Select the pronoun that sounds appropriate.
We tenors will supply the beverages for the picnic.
In situations involving choices between who/whom or whoever/whomever, rephrase the sentence by replacing the troublesome pronoun with "he" for who/whoever ("subject" pronouns) or "him" for whom/whomever ("object" pronouns). Select either who or whom based on whether the similar pronouns he or him are grammatically appropriate in the sentence. (Remember: The "m" in "him" matches with "whom.") For example:
Who gave you this arrangement? (Did he give you this arrangement?)
In the last example, if the pronoun is preceded by a preposition, always begin the rephrasing with the pronoun in question. Ignore the rest of the sentence.
Al Jolson is the performer about whom the movie "The Jazz Singer" was made. (The movie "The Jazz Singer" was made about him.)
-- Pronoun--antecedent agreement
A pronoun should agree with the noun it replaces in terms of number. This means that if a pronoun stands for a singular noun, then the pronoun should also be singular; if the pronoun stands for a plural noun, the pronoun should be plural. For example:
John forgot his uniform.
In the first example, the singular pronoun his replaces the singular noun John; in the second, the plural pronoun their replaces the plural noun tenors.
In other words, the pronouns and their antecedents (words that come before) agree in form.
-- Indefinite pronouns
Problems in agreement arise because some classes of words are not clearly singular or plural. Words in one such group are called indefinite pronouns. The following is a list of most of the indefinite pronouns. They are considered singular:
Because the above indefinite pronouns are considered singular, the following sentences illustrate correct agreement:
None of the invited guests could find his place.
The following indefinite pronouns are considered to be plural; therefore, each requires a plural antecedent.
several few both many
Several were missing their cummerbunds.
The following indefinite pronouns may be singular or plural depending on the context of the sentence. Each is singular if it refers to a total quantity; each is plural if it refers to a number of individual items that can be counted.
some most all none any
Some of the scenery was destroyed in the fire. (quantity)
Most of our show is hilarious. (quantity)
All of the performance was a sheer delight. (quantity)
-- Plural antecedents
Two or more singular antecedents joined by the words "or" or "nor" should be made to agree with a singular pronoun.
Either Jack or Hal hums his part first.
Two or more singular antecedents joined by the word and should be made to agree with a plural pronoun.
-- Collective nouns
Determining agreement with collective nouns, or names of units (chorus, committee, council), may be a problem because whether they are singular or plural depends on the context of the sentence.
If the intent is that the collective noun operates as a single unit, then the antecedent should be singular.
The chorus did its best, but it fell short of its goal.
If the intent is that the collective noun identifies one or more individuals within the group so that it doesn't operate as a single unit, then the antecedent should be plural.
The chorus rushed to their places on the risers as soon as the break was over.
In the first set of examples, the collective nouns chorus and quartet are operating as single units and require singular pronouns. In the second set of examples, these same collective nouns are presented in such a way that the reader's focus is on the individuals within the group rather than on the group itself; therefore, a plural antecedent is needed.
The same rule applies for names of specific groups:
The Future 2000 committee held its annual meeting in Kenosha.
Chiefs of Staff made its first appearance back in 1984.
The Alexandria Harmonizers gave its best performance at the Kennedy Center last Friday.