Anna decided at the beginning of Anna’s first semester of college that Anna would run for thirty minutes every day. Anna knew that Anna would be taking a literature class with a lot of reading, so instead of buying print copies of all the novels Anna’s teacher assigned, Anna bought the audiobooks. That way Anna could listen to the audiobooks as Anna ran.
Did this paragraph feel awkward to you? Let’s try it again using pronouns:
Anna decided at the beginning of her first semester of college that she would run for thirty minutes every day. She knew that she would be taking a literature class with a lot of reading, so instead of buying hard copies of all the novels her teacher assigned, Anna bought the audiobooks. That way she could listen to them as she ran.
This second paragraph is much more natural. Instead of repeating nouns multiple times, we were able to use pronouns. You’ve likely hear the phrase “a pronoun replaces a noun”; this is exactly what a pronoun does. Because a pronoun is replacing a noun, its meaning is dependent on the noun that it is replacing. This noun is called the antecedent. Let’s look at the two sentences we just read again:
- Because a pronoun is replacing a noun, its meaning is dependent on the noun that it is replacing. This noun is called an antecedent.
There are two pronouns here: its and it. Its and it both have the same antecedent: “a pronoun.” Whenever you use a pronoun, you must also include its antecedent. Without the antecedent, your readers (or listeners) won’t be able to figure out what the pronoun is referring to. Let’s look at a couple of examples:
- Jason likes it when people look to him for leadership.
- Trini brushes her hair every morning.
- Billy often has to clean his glasses.
- Kimberly is a gymnast. She has earned several medals in different competitions.
So, what are the antecedents and pronouns in these sentences?
- Jason is the antecedent for the pronoun him.
- Trini is the antecedent for the pronoun her.
- Billy is the antecedent for the pronoun his.
- Kimberly is the antecedent for the pronoun she.
Identify the antecedent in the following examples:
- The bus is twenty minutes late today, like it always is.
- I would never be caught dead wearing boot sandals. They are an affront to nature.
There are several types of pronouns, including personal, demonstrative, indefinite, and relative pronouns. The next few pages will cover each of these.