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Test PrepACTEnglishPronouns

ACT English Skill Review: Pronouns

There are two grammar rules concerning pronouns that you must know as pronouns make many appearances on the ACT English test. Here’s an overview of each rule.

Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement

This rule is very similar to subject/verb agreement rule: A pronoun has to agree with its antecedent. (The noun that a pronoun refers to is called its antecedent.) If the antecedent is singular, the pronoun must be singular; if the antecedent is plural, the pronoun must be plural. Here’s an example:

The boy rode his bike.

In the above example, boy is the antecedent of the pronoun his. Pronoun/antecedent agreement also gets tricky when the antecedent is followed by a prepositional phrase. To avoid confusion, when checking for pronoun/antecedent agreement, simply ignore the prepositional phrase. Remember, the following pronouns are singular: each, either, neither, someone, somebody, everyone, everybody, anyone, anybody, no one, nobody. When two or more antecedents are joined by and, you must use a plural pronoun. When two or more antecedents are joined by or or nor, the pronoun agrees with the antecedent closest to it. Here are some examples:

One of the girls forgot her shoes.
Neither of the players remembered to tie his shoes.
Katianne and Ralston took off their shoes.
Neither the players nor the coach brought his stopwatch.

Pronoun Usage

It’s not enough for a pronoun to agree with what it’s replacing (the antecedent), the pronoun must also be the right case, meaning a nominative (subject) pronoun or an objective pronoun. Nominative pronouns, such as I, he and they, are used for subjects and predicate nominatives. Objective pronouns, such as me, and them, are used for direct objects, indirect objects and objects of prepositions. Possessive pronouns, such as my and our, are used to indicate (duh) possession. In the examples below, the nominative pronouns are bolded, the objective pronouns are underlined and the possessive pronouns are in italics.

Jacob and I are both taking geometry. We are studying for our math test.
Will you eat lunch with Rudy and me?
threw my ball to her.


Try these two examples for practice.


Answers and Explanations

  1. The correct answer is B. The antecedent of the pronoun they is student, which is singular. Therefore, the pronoun must be singular as well (he or she rather than they). Choice D fixes the pronoun problem but introduces a subject/verb agreement problem as the subject is singular but the verb is plural.
  2. The correct answer is H. You must use the objective pronoun me rather than the nominative pronoun I because Lauren and me is an indirect object. Choice G simply reverses the order of Lauren and I and is still wrong. Choice I is also wrong – you would never say he gave she a detention… This question is tricky for many because, on its own, Lauren and I doesn’t sound wrong. However, you would never say he gave I detention. By taking out Lauren and the error becomes more obvious.


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