Thursday, December 30, 2010

Make those antecedents and pronouns agree!

Here is the lead sentence in the lead story in a recent Knoxville News Sentinel: "Ask anyone involved in managing stormwater runoff to cite their biggest problem, and the answer is universal -- enforcement."

One quick fix is to replace "their" with "his or her." Antecedents like "everyone, " "someone, " "everybody," "each," "either" are singular.

[We used to treat "none" strictly as singular, because it is a contraction of "not one," but these days Harbrace 6a(7) says, "When used as subjects, "all," "any," "some," and "none" may take either a singular or a plural verb, generally depending on the context. Praise be.]

A better fix in the sentence above might be to change "anyone" to a plural -- e.g., people, folks, civil engineers, those.

Note: Harbrace 6b(1) deals with agreements of antecedents and pronouns and has lots of great tips.

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