Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

What is a pronoun?
A pronoun takes the place of a noun and sometimes refers to a noun.
Example #1

He is riding a bike through the park.
Reasoning: The word "he" is a pronoun because it takes the place of a person (e.g., John, David, Stephen).

Example #2

The weather is great today; let's make the most of it by going to the beach.
Reasoning: The word "it" is a pronoun because it refers to the weather.

What is an antecedent?
An antecedent is a noun or pronoun to which another noun or pronoun refers. It usually goes before the pronoun ("ante" means before).
Example #1

Even though the party was fun, it was crowded.
Reasoning: "It" is the pronoun because it refers to the noun "party." And "party" is the antecedent because "party" is the noun to which "it," the pronoun, refers.

Example #2

People often like parties because they get to see old friends.
Reasoning: "They" refers to "people" and is, therefore, the pronoun. "People" is the antecedent because "people" is the noun to which "they" refers.

What is pronoun-antecedent agreement?
Pronoun antecedent agreement is when the pronoun agrees in number (referring to singular or plural) and person (referring to first, second, or third person) with its antecedent.

HOT GRAMMAR TIP

When you check your own sentences to determine if the pronouns agree with their antecedents in both number and person, look first for what the antecedent is. Then match the antecedent with a pronoun that is consistent in number. For example, if the pronoun is singular, the antecedent should also be singular. Then identify the person of the antecedent (first, second, or third person), and then match the pronouns in person.

Example #1 (Pronoun-Antecedent Disagreement - Number)

When an employee does not agree with their plural boss's decision, the employee singular should not support that decision.
Reasoning: This sentence contains an antecedent and a pronoun. Since the antecedent (employee) is singular and the pronoun (their) is plural, the pronoun disagrees with the antecedent, thus containing a pronoun-antecedent agreement error. You can correct this in one of two ways: either make both the pronoun and antecedent singular, or make both the pronoun and antecedent plural.

Example #1 (Corrected)

When an employee does not agree with his singular boss's decision, the employee singular should not support that decision.

Example #2 (Pronoun-Antecedent Disagreement - Person)

Everyone singular should make their plural own decision.
Reasoning: This sentence contains an antecedent (everyone) and a pronoun (their). Since the antecedent is third person and singular (everyone), the pronoun (they) should also be third person and singular; instead, "they" is third person and plural.

Example #2 (Corrected)

Everyone singular should make his or her singular own decision.

Exercise 1 | Exercise 2