Take a look at this sentence:
To avoid a ticket, Alice told the police that Alice didn't realize Alice was pressing harder on the accelerator pedal because Alice had gained 40 pounds in two months.
Hopefully, reading that shows you why we need pronouns, which are words that represent other nouns. If we didn't have pronouns, everything would sound repetitive and confusing.
Here's the better version:
To avoid a ticket, Alice told the police that she didn't realize she was pressing harder on the accelerator pedal because she had gained 40 pounds in two months.
Here are some examples of pronouns:
|Subject Pronouns||He, She, It||They|
|Object Pronouns||Her, Him, It||Them|
|Possessive Pronouns||Hers, His, Its||Theirs|
|Possessive Adj. Pronouns||Her, His, Its||Their|
|Relative Pronouns||This, That, Which||These, Those|
|Reflexive Pronouns||Himself, Herself, Itself||Themselves|
Don't worry about memorizing the names or types—just familiarize yourself with the words so that you can tell whether something's a pronoun or not.
You need to know only two rules for pronouns, but they're really important:
|A pronoun must clearly stand for ONE and ONLY ONE other NOUN.|
|A singular noun must be referred to by a singular pronoun. Likewise, a plural pronoun must be referred to by a plural pronoun.|
|Wrong:||Whenever Jason and Alexander sit down at a buffet, he eats way more food.|
|Correct:||Whenever Jason and Alexander sit down at a buffet, Jason eats way more food.|
This example violates rule 1 because we don't know who eats more. He could refer to either Jason or Alexander.
In conversation, we might say something like "He eats way more food," and that's grammatically fine because we know from the context of our conversation who he is. But on the SAT, a pronoun with no clear reference is an error.
|Wrong:||Even if a student gets in early, they still have to maintain good grades during senior year.|
|Correct:||Even if a student gets in early, he or she still has to maintain good grades during senior year.|
In this example, rule 2 is being violated. We know that they obviously refers to student, but they is a plural pronoun while student is a singular noun. He or she is the singular pronoun we must use (yes, it's singular). Again, we must use singular pronouns for singular nouns and plural pronouns for plural nouns.
|Wrong:||At the police station, they found a pile of cash stashed in her bra.|
|Correct:||At the police station, the inspectors found a pile of cash stashed in her bra.|
Who's they? Here, they doesn't even have a reference—it doesn't represent any noun that we can see in front of us. Sure, we could assume that they refers to the police, but police is not a noun in this sentence—it's an adjective. Remember that a pronoun MUST stand for an existing noun somewhere.
|Wrong:||My teammate deleted my part of the essay. The next day, I confronted him about this.|
|Correct:||My teammate deleted my part of the essay. The next day, I confronted him about this deletion.|
|Correct:||My teammate deleted my part of the essay. The next day, I confronted him about his reasons for doing so.|
In this example, it's not explicit what this stands for. The easiest way to fix reference errors involving this, that, these, or those is to either add the noun right after or replace the pronoun altogether with something else. By inserting the word deletion into the sentence, we essentially define what this is.
Think of pronouns as shortcuts or aliases for other files on your computer. The original file must exist for there to be a shortcut. Furthermore, the shortcut must match the file it represents. You wouldn't want to click on a shortcut only to open something other than what you were expecting.
The pronoun it can be used in the following way:
These are completely fine sentences where you shouldn't worry at all about pronoun errors.
Here are a few more questions and answers so you get the hang of it:
|Wrong:||Drunk with beer bottles in both hands, Michael slid and dropped it on the rug.|
|Correct:||Drunk with beer bottles in both hands, Michael slid and dropped them on the rug.|
|Wrong:||The senior class has organized their school trip to the Antarctic.|
|Correct:||The senior class has organized its school trip to the Antarctic.|
|Wrong:||Because the restaurant was amazingly successful, they hired more employees to run it.|
|Correct:||Because the restaurant was amazingly successful, it hired more employees to run it.|
|Wrong:||I got so much in the mail today. I've been opening all those since noon.|
|Correct:||I got so much in the mail today. I've been opening all those letters since noon.|
|Wrong:||Everyone wished that they had cheaper textbooks rather than the rip-offs that were required.|
|Correct:||Everyone wished that he or she had cheaper textbooks rather than the rip-offs that were required.|
|Wrong:||A good chef always takes good care of their equipment.|
|Correct:||A good chef always takes good care of his or her equipment.|
|Wrong:||Because the blankets got torn in the wash, we must replace it before the customer gets back.|
|Correct:||Because the blankets got torn in the wash, we must replace them before the customer gets back.|
|Wrong:||The lion and the tortoise were about to get into a fight when it fell down a ditch.|
|Correct:||The lion and the tortoise were about to get into a fight when the tortoise fell down a ditch.|
|Wrong:||Few chairs are as comfortable as that made by the Herman-Miller company.|
|Correct:||Few chairs are as comfortable as those made by the Herman-Miller company.|
In this last example, those refers to chairs. Because chairs is plural, we need those instead of that, which is singular. It's easy to remember because you would always say that car, that jet, that book and those cars, those jets, those books rather than the other way around.
Despite the growing technical expertise among younger generations, trivial computer issues still need to be addresses; for example, leaving them on for too long can cause battery drainage.
A) NO CHANGE
Germany, Italy, Great Britain—each of these countries was the most feared in Europe at the time they rose to power.
A) NO CHANGE
B) it rose
C) its rising
D) their rise
Ecologists have observed that certain wild animals do not perceive human intrusion as a threat; it has compelled them to reconsider some widely accepted theories.
A) NO CHANGE
B) they have
C) that has
D) this observation has
Even critics of the new bill concur that it has some productive measures that are as good as or perhaps more effective than that of the old one.
A) NO CHANGE
The school issues harsh warnings to students who do not call the main office when he or she is too sick to attend.
A) NO CHANGE
B) whoever is
C) they are
D) their being
The Israeli prime minister, like most politicians in power, regarded themselves as being more important than the officials who would deal with the daily errands.
A) NO CHANGE
B) their selves
Want more questions? Our SAT Writing Advanced Guide and Workbook contains over 500 additional practice questions (grouped by topic) and 3 practice tests.