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Section 6.8.2

Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

A pronoun must agree in gender and number with its antecedent. If necessary, vary your choice of pronouns to avoid sexist language. Sometimes the best way to avoid sexist language is to change the singular to the plural.


Unacceptable

In the United States, an astronaut candidate must berecommended by their previous organization.

Acceptable

In the United States, an astronaut candidate must berecommended by his previous organization.

Acceptable

In the United States, an astronaut candidate must berecommended by her previous organization.

Acceptable

In the United States, astronaut candidates must berecommended by their previous organizations.

--"Astronaut Selection and Training," Compton's Encyclopedia(modified)


When the antecedent is a singular indefinite pronoun, use a singular pronoun torefer to it. In such cases, vary your choice of pronouns to avoid sexistlanguage. Sometimes the best way to avoid sexist language is to change thesingular to the plural.


Unacceptable

Each of the astronaut candidates senttheir photograph with theirapplication.

Acceptable

Each of the astronaut candidates senthis photograph with his application.

Acceptable

Each of the astronaut candidates senther photograph with her application.

Acceptable

All of the astronauts sent theirphotographs with their applications.


When the antecedent is a plural indefinite pronoun, use a plural pronoun to referto it.


Unacceptable

Some of the astronaut candidates senthis photograph with his application.

Unacceptable

Some of the astronaut candidates senther photograph with her application.

Acceptable

Some of the astronaut candidates senttheir photographs with theirapplications.


Use a plural pronoun to refer to antecedents joined by the coordinating conjunction and.


Unacceptable

The ceramic tile and the aluminum alloy used in theexperiment retained its initial hardness.

Acceptable

The ceramic tile and the aluminum alloy used in theexperiment retained their initial hardness.


Use a pronoun that agrees in gender and number with the closest antecedent torefer to antecedents joined by the coordinating conjunctions or andnor.


Unacceptable

Either the disks or the motor needtheir parts repositioned.

Acceptable

Either the disks or the motor needsits parts repositioned.

Acceptable

Either the motor or the disks needtheir parts repositioned.


Use a singular pronoun to refer to antecedents preceded by each orevery.


Unacceptable

Each ceramic tile and aluminum alloy sample used in theexperiment retained their initial hardness.

Acceptable

Each ceramic tile and aluminum alloy sample used in theexperiment retained its initial hardness.


Special case: If each follows a plural antecedent, use a pluralpronoun.


Unacceptable

They each sent in his application.Tom and Jerry each sent in hisapplication.

Acceptable

They each sent in their applications.Tom and Jerry each sent in theirapplications.


Use a singular pronoun to refer to a collective noun acting as a group.


Unacceptable

The astronaut selection committee submitstheir decision to NASA.

Acceptable

The astronaut selection committee submitsits decision to NASA.


Use a plural pronoun to refer to the members of a collective noun acting asindividuals.


Unacceptable

The astronaut selection committee vote forits favorite candidates.

Acceptable

The astronaut selection committee vote fortheir favorite candidates.

Acceptable

The members of the astronout selection committee votefor their favorite candidates.


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