Writing Boot Camp


Noun: person, place, thing

Pronoun: word that replaces a noun (its antecedent)



Noun and pronouns must agree...

... agree in number

If a student joins a sorority, she is assigned a Big Sister. (not they)

A can of red beets sits on its shelf in the pantry. (not their shelf)


... agree in person

When a student joins a sorority, she is assigned a Big Sister. (not you are assigned)


...agree in gender

Fred's father is proud of his son, but the new wife thinks her stepson is not working up to his potential. 


...agree in case

Pronouns as subjects: I, you, he, she, it, we, they, who

Bob and I share a ride. (not Bob and me)

He and I have been best friends since middle school. (not him and me)


Pronouns as objects: me, him, her, us, them, whom

She picked up the book at the library for Mary and me. (not Mary and I)

The money is for me. The money is for Sam and me. The money is for him and me.


Pronouns that show possession: my, mine, your, yours, its, our, their, whose



Personal (Definite) Pronoun

Must have an antecedent (noun it is replacing): I, he, she, it, they; him, her, them; his, hers, theirs; himself, herself, themselves

Gustavo is studying for his test. (his = pronoun, replacing noun Gustavo)

He is worried because he missed the review session. (He = pronoun, replacing noun Gustavo)


Confusion re: each and every (which require a singular pronoun)

The quarterback and his coach registerered for their tournament photos. (or photo)

Each quarterback and coach registered for his tournament photo.

Every quarterback and coach registered for his tournament photo.


Indefinite Pronouns

Usually are singular: everybody, everything, someone, nothing, anybody

Everything has its purpose.

Anybody can apply himself and succeed in this class.


Writing Inclusively

Everybody must take his seat. Everybody must take his or her seat.

All students must take their seats.


Sometime indefinite pronouns are plural: most, some, all, any

Most people want their vote to remain confidential.

All of us want our lunch as quickly as possible.


Confusion: Some pronouns can be singular or plural, depending on use: all, some, none

Some of it is. None of them are.


Be careful collective nouns as antecedents.

The jury read its verdict. The jury members were asked to announce their votes.

The United States cherishes its freedoms.


Avoid pronouns with ambiguous antecedents

When the car hit the tree, it was not damaged.

I don't think they should show violence on TV

If you put this handout in your notebook, you can refer to it later.




  1. Us / We  men like our new coach.

  2. Marty and  me / myself / I  like to work out together.

  3. When someone joins the football team,  he is / they are  given a work-out schedule.

  4. If you have any questions, email Marian or  me / myself / I.

  5. Neither of the women gave  her / their  homework to the professor.

  6. The department made  its / their  decision about the scholarship.

  7. If a student wants to be successful in this class,  you / they / he or she  must turn in the work on time.

  8. The media will report what  it wants / they want  to report.

  9. This is between  me / myself / I  and Marilyn, so butt out.

  10. Somebody left  their / his or her  book on the shelf.

  11. The student delegation asked to meet with the department chair so  it / they  can complain about Professor Smith.

  12. Neither my mother nor yours will give  her / their  permission for us to go backpacking this weekend.

  13. If anybody doesn't like the music I'm playing,  he / they / he or she / you  can go elsewhere.

  14. One of my friends can bring  his / his or her / their  DJ setup to my party this weekend.

  15. Maxwell doesn't see  himself / hisself / themself / themselves  reflected in the teacher's criticism.


Answers: 1 We. 2 I. 3 he is. 4 me. 5 her. 6 its. 7 he or she. 8 they want. 9 me. 10 his or her. 11 it. 12 her. 13 he or she. 14 his or her. 15 himself.



Online Resources


Oxford Univ Press


Empire State