Syntax: Subject-Pronoun Agreement (Who/That/It/Their)

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Would you refer to a corporation that had abdicated its duties to the public? Or would this be a company which abdicated their duties?

Relative Pronouns:

  • Who: Use “who” when referring to a PERSON: “She was an individual who advocated vociferously for free speech.”
  • That/Which: Use “that” or “which” when referring to GROUPS, ANIMALS, THINGS, or ENTITIES (mnemonic: GATE, which is a THING): “This was a company that didn’t care about the bridges it burnt.”
    • Rules for That/Which: For an explanation on when to use “that” vs “which,” please review this lesson.

Rule: If referring to a PERSON, use “who”; otherwise, use “that” or “which” depending on if the clause it introduces is essential.

Possessive Pronouns:

  • His/Her: When referring to a specific PERSON, use his or her: “Her class schedule was set last Friday.”
  • Their: When referring to a GROUP of individuals, use their: “Their teacher was a real stickler.”
  • Its: When referring to ENTITIES—like a company, country, court, or government—use its: “The government has failed to carry its burden of persuasion.”

Rule: If referring to a PERSON, use “his/her”; if referring to a GROUP, use “their”; if referring to an ENTITY, use “its.

Now that this lesson has conveyed its wisdom to you, here are a few practice problems!

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1. Which of the following rewrites of the underlined portion is correct? Mice who don’t produce leptin at all eat uncontrollably.

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2. Which of the following rewrites of the underlined portion is correct? Members of the community were still aware of his involvement years later, which is evidenced by the members that initially reached out to us.

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3. Which of the following underlined portions, if any, has an error? The Court had to cleanse its staff after the majority’s opinion, which decried the trial court’s cursory analysis, was leaked to CBS and several of their competitors.

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4. Which of the following rewrites of the underlined portion is correct? There’s a group of kids in the park that look lost.

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5. Which of the following rewrites of the underlined portion is correct? The jury took its time deciding, and it was clear that they were divided by the evidence which was presented.

Your score is

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