2. Singular Indefinite Pronoun Inconsistency : WAKE Editing Articles and Advice
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2. Singular Indefinite Pronoun Inconsistency

by Weston Kincade on 11/17/13

A very common error between singular and plural pronouns and their antecedents occurs with singular indefinite pronouns such as each, every, someone, anybody, and neither.   There are also derivatives and other combinations of these root words.

                       

Indefinite Pronoun Inconsistency Example

Incorrect - Everybody went to the concert last Friday and held their cell phone up high for the finale.

The problem is that everybody is a singular pronoun, but their is a plural possessive pronoun. As I mentioned in the Singular-Plural Inconsistencies section, maintaining singular or plural consistency with pronouns and their antecedents is essential.

 

Indefinite Pronouns Singular-Plural Solution

Singular Solution

Their refers to everybody’s cell phone, so each person’s cell phone—singular. This means the possessive pronoun should also be singular. The sentence should read:

Masculine:

Everybody went to the concert last Friday and held his cell phone up high for the finale.

or

Feminine:

Everybody went to the concert last Friday and held her cell phone up high for the finale.

or

Gender Neutral:

Everybody went to the concert last Friday and held a cell phone up high for the finale.

 

For more on gender consistency, follow the link to the right.

 

Plural Solution

If the subject were intended to be plural, then each body would have a cell phone, meaning it would be cell phones. In addition, the subject pronoun would need to be changed from the singular indefinite pronoun everybody to a plural pronoun or noun like students.

CorrectThe students went to the concert last Friday and held their cell phone up high for the finale.

 

For more explanations of common pronoun-antecedent agreement errors, try the following articles.

 

Common Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement Errors

1. Singular-Plural Inconsistency

2. Singular Indefinite Pronoun Inconsistency

3. Gender Inconsistency

4. Missing Antecedents

5. Ambiguous Antecedents

6. Pronoun-Antecedent Order

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