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Test PrepSATWritingPronouns

SAT Writing Skill Review: Pronouns

If you want to achieve a high score on the Writing section, there are two grammar rules concerning pronouns that you must know.  After all, pronouns make many appearances in the Error ID and Improve the Sentence questions. Here’s an overview of each rule.

Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement

This rule is very similar to the 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?
He threw my ball to her.


Try these two examples for practice.

Answers and Explanations

  1. The correct answer is C. 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). Why isn’t A the answer? Because changing student to students introduces other problems to the sentence, such as subject/verb agreement. 
  2. The correct answer is D. You must use the objective pronoun me rather than the nominative pronoun I because Lauren and me is an indirect object. Don’t be fooled by choice C. Who is correct because it acts as the subject of the clause who was responsible. This question is tricky because, on its own, Lauren and I doesn’t sound wrong. However, you would never say he gave I detention. By taking out Lauren, the error becomes more obvious.

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