Thursday, August 9, 2007

Make Sure Those Pesky Pronomial Expressions Have Clear Antecedents

The Ruge Rule: Do not use a pronomial expression without an expressed and clearly recognizable antecedent.

A pronomial expression (PE) is an expression that partakes of the nature of a pronoun in that it refers to an antecedent. The most common consist of a demonstrative adjective (e.g.*, this, that, these, those, such) and a following noun.

So, here's a PE w/o an antecedent: Mink skins are valuable because these animals are now scarce.

Corrected: Mink skins are valuable because minks are now scarce.

Another PE w/o an antecedent: He is an expert violinist, having studied that instrument since boyhood.

Corrected: He is an expert violinist, having studied the violin since boyhood.

This is covered in the Harbrace College Handbook Rule 28c (2): Make the antecedent explicit rather than implicit.

This general problem will appear in various forms in every grammar-type test you take, from the "new" PSAT and SAT through the AP English Grammar test. Just make sure, when you see a that .. , this.. , these.. or those.., to ask yourself, "What is this referring to?"

* "e.g.," meaning "for example," is an abbreviation of the Latin exempli gratia;
Other handy abbreviations are "i.e.," short for the Latin id est and meaning "that is," and et al. short for et alii , meaning "and others." It's a little like etc., which is short for et cetera and means "and so forth."

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