Mastering the Mechanics: Pronoun Tip #4
Last updated 5/31/2016
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Background changes to a close up of a dictionary page and a bright green box that reads: “Mastering the Mechanics: Pronoun Tip #4: Maintain Noun-Pronoun Agreement
Slide changes to a mostly gray slide with the heading: More Pronoun Tips
Below the heading is the following text:
- Avoid the general we, us, and our
Rather than this: We all need to focus on patient satisfaction
Try this: Nurses all need to focus on patient satisfaction
- Avoid ambiguous pronouns.
Rather than this: When the customer and the manager spoke on the phone, he was angry.
Try this: The customer was angry when he spoke on the phone with the manager.
- Maintain noun-pronoun agreement
Wrong: A manager should always listen to their customers
Correct: Managers should always listen to their customers
Wrong: The family needs to work on their anger issues
Correct: The family members need to work on their anger issues.
Audio: Pronoun Tip 4 is that you want to maintain what's called noun-pronoun agreement. In other words, whenever you use a plural noun, you need to use plural pronouns to refer to that noun. And similarly, when you use singular nouns, you need to use singular pronouns to refer to that noun. So we have a couple examples here. "A manager should always listen to their customers." "A manager" is a singular noun, right? "Their" is a plural pronoun. So we have an issue here. It's better to say "managers", plural, "should listen to their customers."
The second example is a little bit trickier. "The family needs to work on their anger issues." And we know that a family consists of multiple people, right, so this sounds okay, it sounds like a sentence you might say in conversation, but it actually is grammatically incorrect, because family is actually a singular word. So you'd either have to say "The family needs to work on its anger issues" or if that sounds kind of strange to you, to refer to people as "it," you can say "The family members need to work on their anger issues." In this case you're using a plural noun and a plural pronoun. So whatever noun or pronoun you do use, you just have to make sure they agree.
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