Pronouns and Antecedents

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1 All About Pronouns and Antecedents ] When a young man complains that a young lady has no heart, it s pretty certain that she has his. George Dennison Prentice Introduction A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun or a noun phrase in a sentence. That noun is called an antecedent. This mini-lesson focuses on the following types of pronouns: personal pronouns and antecedents possessive pronouns reflexive pronouns indefinite pronouns After briefly reviewing the definition of a pronoun, write the Prentice quote on the board and discuss the pronouns in it. Ask: What noun does the pronoun she refer to? What noun does the pronoun his refer to? Guide students to see that his is a possessive pronoun and that Prentice means his [the young man s] heart. Point out that the contraction it s is the combination of the subject and verb, not a possessive pronoun. Teach Hand out copies of the passage Dear Mr. President on page 13 or make a transparency of it to display on the overhead. Call on a volunteer to read aloud the passage while the rest of the students follow along. Then use the teaching guide on page 12 to discuss general tips on pronouns and antecedents and how the writer used them in the passage. Apply Give a copy of the list of the Types of Pronouns reproducible on page 16 to each student. Explain that this list is a good reference tool to keep in their writing folders. Then tell students you re going to introduce an activity that focuses on indefinite pronouns. Start a call-and-response activity that uses different indefinite pronouns with the same verb. Example: Teacher: Who is singing? Student 1: Nobody is singing. Student 2: Many are singing. Record the responses on the board. After every student has had a chance to respond, go over the pronouns and verb forms in each response. Point out that not every indefinite pronoun has a possessive form. Ask: Which indefinite pronouns are singular? Which are plural? Grammar Activities That Really Grab Em!, Grades by Sarah Glasscock, Scholastic Teaching Resources Pronouns and Antecedents 13 Dear President Obama, Everyone in my book club is reading your book, Dreams From My Father. All of us agree that you re a wonderful writer! We also agree that you deliver speeches that inspire us, so, I was very dismayed to read your words in the newspaper: You helped shape Michelle and myself. Many of you have been part of our children s lives. Many of you have helped to support us, through thick and through thin. And so I m just very grateful to all of you. Surely you know, Mr. President, that the reflexive pronoun myself can only be used with the subject I. In fact, a reflexive pronoun can only be used when the subject and the object of a sentence are the same. For example, a person would say (or write), She voted for herself instead of She voted for her. To make your thank-you address grammatically correct, what you should have said is, You helped shape Michelle and me. A child might read what you said and he or she might start to use reflexive pronouns incorrectly in his or her writing. Please remember, Mr. President, we re listening to every word you say! Sincerely yours, A Concerned Citizen Name Date PRONOUNS: Types of Pronouns SINGULAR Subjective Objective PLURAL Subjective Objective PLURAL SINGULAR PLURAL Grammar Activities That Really Grab Em!, Grades by Sarah Glasscock, Scholastic Teaching Resources 11

2 Personal Pronouns and Antecedents A pronoun takes the place of a noun. It must agree with its noun antecedent. In replacing a noun with a pronoun, a writer has to think about person, number, case, and gender: Should I use the first person, second person, or third person? Is the noun singular or plural? Is the noun a subject, an object, or possessive? Does the noun refer to a male or a female, or is it neutral? The discussion about how we should refer to males and females shows how changes in ideas and beliefs affect grammar. 5 In this sentence, he or she is used because a child really means any child. It doesn t matter whether the child is a boy or a girl. Another way to write the sentence is by making the nouns and pronouns plural: Children read what you said, and they might start to use reflexive pronouns in their own writing. Possessive Pronouns Like a possessive noun, a possessive pronoun indicates who or what possesses something. Possessive pronouns have two forms: my/mine, your/yours, his/his, her/hers, its/its, our/ours, your/yours, their/theirs. The decision about which form to use depends on the noun s role in the sentence: Tessa s cap is covered by bees! Her cap is covered by bees! The hat covered by bees is Tessa s! The hat covered by bees is hers! Reflexive Pronouns A reflexive pronoun ends in self and refers back to the subject of the sentence. The reflexive pronouns myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, themselves never appear as subjects. A reflexive pronoun is used only when the subject and the object of a sentence are the same. A reflexive pronoun appears immediately after a verb or a preposition: He spoke softly to himself, so no one else could hear his words. 3 The words your and you re are homophones. Although they sound the same, they mean different things. You re is a contraction, combining the pronoun you and the verb are. Your is a possessive pronoun. 6 To avoid the clumsy phrasing his or her, we might say, A child might read what you said and start to use reflexive pronouns in their own writing, which is incorrect. When writing formally, try using plural nouns and/pronouns instead of singular nouns and pronouns. 4 The letter writer explains the rules about using a reflexive pronoun: (a) A reflexive pronoun is never the subject of a sentence. (b) Use a reflexive pronoun when the subject and object of the sentence are the same. In this sentence, the subject you and the object myself don t refer to the same person. Indefinite Pronouns An indefinite pronoun refers to one or more, or all, of an unspecified group or class of people, animals, things, or ideas. Some indefinite pronouns have possessive forms, which are formed by adding apostrophe s: another s, everyone s, nobody s. An indefinite pronoun that ends in one or body is singular The subject Everyone is a singular indefinite pronoun, so it takes the singular verb is reading. 2 The subject All is a plural indefinite pronoun, so it takes the plural verb agree.

3 MODEL PASSAGE Pronouns and Antecedents Dear Mr. President Dear President Obama, Everyone in my book club is reading your book, Dreams From My Father. All of us agree that you re a wonderful writer! We also agree that you deliver speeches that inspire us, so, I was very dismayed to read your words in the newspaper: You helped shape Michelle and myself. Many of you have been part of our children s lives. Many of you have helped to support us, through thick and through thin. And so I m just very grateful to all of you. Surely you know, Mr. President, that the reflexive pronoun myself can only be used with the subject I. In fact, a reflexive pronoun can only be used when the subject and the object of a sentence are the same. For example, a person would say (or write), She voted for herself instead of She voted for her. To make your thank-you address grammatically correct, what you should have said is, You helped shape Michelle and me. A child might read what you said and he or she might start to use reflexive pronouns incorrectly in his or her writing. 6 3 Please remember, Mr. President, we re listening to every word you say! 4 5 Sincerely yours, A Concerned Citizen In this passage, you ll see the following types of pronouns: personal pronouns and their antecedents reflexive pronouns possessive pronouns indefinite pronouns 13

4 $ WRITING PROMPTS Pronouns Teachers: Duplicate these prompts on sturdy paper and then cut them apart. You may also write the prompts on the board or display them onscreen Name Date He, She, or It? Write! In some languages, such as Spanish, endings often indicate gender whether a noun is masculine, feminine, or neutral. For example, the Spanish word for school, escuela, ends in an a so it s a feminine noun. English uses pronouns to indicate the gender of a noun he, she, it; him, her, it. Explain whether you think places, such as schools, or ideas, such as liberty, should be identified as masculine, feminine, or neutral. Give specific examples. With the Rest of the Class: Discuss your examples. If you speak another language, share how that language uses gender. $ Name Date My Best Friend Write! Who s your best friend? Do you have more than one best friend? What do you like to do together? What qualifies this friend or these friends to be the best? Write a short description. With the Rest of the Class: Talk about any problems you encountered in deciding whether to use the personal pronouns him, her, or them or the possessive pronouns his, her/hers, or their/theirs. Write your full response on a separate sheet of paper. Write your full response on a separate sheet of paper. 14

5 Activities: Pronouns and Antecedents Who Said That? A New Spin on an Old Tale Have students refashion a favorite fairy tale or folktale. Give the following directions: Read the story several times and then write your own version of the story but don t use any nouns to name the main characters. Use only pronouns. Exchange stories with your writing partner. Do you recognize your partner s story even though the main characters aren t identified by name? Then revise your partner s story by adding proper nouns. As you revise, think about how to balance the use of nouns and pronouns. Also make sure that each pronoun clearly represents a specific noun. With the Class: Ask students to reveal the technique they used to write their stories: Did you write a draft that included nouns and then substitute pronouns for them? Did you plunge right in and tell the story using only pronouns? If so, how did you keep the characters clear in your mind as you wrote? Respect Yourself! Materials: examples of hip-hop or rap lyrics from a source such as Kids Rap Radio Explain that hip-hop, or rap, lyrics rhyme and have a rhythmic, 4/4 beat. After students listen to some examples of hip-hop or rap lyrics, ask them to work in groups to write their own. There s a catch: Each group has to use reflexive pronouns in its lyrics. Once a group is satisfied with the song, students can present it to the rest of the class. With the Class: Talk about the different ways in which groups used reflexive pronouns. Explain why we use the reflexive pronoun yourself in an imperative sentence such as Respect yourself. Building a Story, Pronoun by Pronoun Materials: (for each group) number cube, list of pronouns (page 16), spinner divided into four equal sections and labeled Personal Pronouns, Possessive Pronouns, Indefinite Pronouns, and Reflexive Pronouns, scissors, pencil, paper clip Share the following directions for building a story with groups: You and your group are going to build a story, pronoun by pronoun, sentence by sentence. To decide the order of storytellers, each member tosses the number cube. The storytellers go in order from least number to greatest number. The first storyteller spins. He or she must use that type of pronoun in the beginning sentence of your story. (Use the list of pronouns to give you ideas.) The next storyteller spins and must use that type of pronoun to build the next sentence. Continue spinning and building your story until you decide that it s finished. With the Class: Encourage groups to read aloud their stories and discuss the challenges they faced in building their stories. 15

6 ACTIVITY Name Date PRONOUNS: Types of Pronouns Personal Pronouns SINGULAR PLURAL Subjective Objective Subjective Objective Possessive Pronouns SINGULAR PLURAL I me we us my/mine our/ours you you you you your/yours your/yours he him they them his/his their/theirs she her they them her/hers their/theirs it it they them its/its their/theirs Indefinite Pronouns and Their Possessive Forms all anything everybody/ most none several everybody s another/ both everyone/ much nothing some another s everyone s any each everything neither/ one/ somebody/ neither s one s somebody s anybody/ each one/ few no one/ other/ something anybody s each one s no one s other s anyone/ either/ many nobody/ others/ such anyone s either s nobody s others Reflexive Pronouns SINGULAR myself yourself himself, herself, itself PLURAL ourselves yourselves themselves 16

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