On October 23rd, 2014, we updated our
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Four situations lead to problems
with pronoun agreement. To deal
with the problem, either change the
pronoun so it agrees in number and
person with the antecedent or
change the noun to agree with the
pronoun you have used.
1- Compound subject
• A compound subject joined by and requires
Correct: Both the oak tree and the rose bush
had trouble regaining their strength after the
Compound subjects joined
by or or nor
• Whichever noun is closer to the verb
determines whether the pronoun should be
singular or plural.
Correct: Neither the oak tree nor the rose
bushes regained their strength after the
Correct: Neither the rose bushes nor the oak
tree regained its strength after the storm.
2- Collective noun
• Collective nouns represent a collection of
things. For example:
company, team, club, committee.
Incorrect: The band showed their appreciation
by playing several encores.
Correct: The band showed its appreciation by
playing several encores.
Correct: The band members showed their
appreciation by playing several encores.
• When the collective noun refers to a group or
entity that acts as one unit use a singular
• When the collective noun refers to members
of a group who act as individuals, use a plural
Correct: The band disagreed among themselves
about the songs to be played.
3- Indefinite pronouns
Singular indefinite pronouns
• anybody everybody nobody
• Note: in everyday speech, we often use plural
pronouns (their, themselves) because such
pronouns cause us to picture more than one
person. For example, we may say “Everyone
should bring their own laptop.” In formal
writing, however, these indefinite pronouns
are considered singular and must take a
• Correct: Each of the buildings had its (not their)
• Correct: Neither of the dancers was pleased with
her (not their) performance.
It is easier to make the antecedent plural
than struggle with he/she or his/her or
• Everyone in the mall seemed lost in his or her
• The shoppers in the mall seemed lost in their
4- A shift in person
• Within a sentence, pronouns should not disrupt
pronoun antecedent agreement by shifting
person (point of view).
Incorrect: To drop a course, students [third person]
should go to the counselor’s office where you
[second person] obtain a course- change card.
Incorrect: Most of us [first person]enjoy eating
out, but you [second person] can never be sure
that a favorite restaurant won’t lower its