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Pronoun Reference And Shift

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by

Rachael Gardner

on 12 December 2013

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Transcript of Pronoun Reference And Shift

Ambiguous Reference
A pronoun makes an ambiguous reference if it can refer to
more than one
antecedent. When a pronoun has more than one possible antecedent, the meaning of the sentence can be hard to understand.
Pronoun Reference And Shift
By: Rachael Gardner, Charles Martinez & Nate Dregely

In the examples below, the two sentences have been fixed to eliminate ambiguous pronoun reference.
Vague Reference
If an antecedent to a pronoun is only implied, or if the pronoun-antecedent link is vague, the meaning of the sentence can be unclear. Watch for vague references commonly made with the pronouns
you
,
it
, and
they
.
Vague Reference
To clarify a vague reference, either reword the sentence to make the reference and meaning clear, or replace the pronoun with an appropriate noun and change the verb, as needed.
In the examples below, two sentences have been fixed to eliminate vague pronoun reference.
Relative pronouns this, that, and which can also create a vague reference id they refer to a general idea instead of a specific noun.
Ambiguous Reference
To fix this kind of problem and clarify the meaning of the sentence, either:
replace the ambiguous pronoun with a noun,
or
revise the sentence entirely
Ambiguous

When Liz emailed her mother, she was in Montana looking for dinosaur eggs.


When the fossil hunters met the graduate students, they greeted them warmly
Clear

When Liz was in Montana looking for dinosaur eggs, she emailed her mother.


When the fossil hunters met the graduate students, the students greeted them warmly
Vague

We'll visit the Museum of Natural History for the new exhibit. It should be fantastic!

They need volunteers for a Peruvian dig. You do not want to miss the opportunity.
Clear

The new exhibit at the Museum of Natural History should be fantastic!


They need volunteers for a Peruvian dig. Graduate students in archeology do not want to miss this opportunity.
Ex.) Not many bones were uncovered at the site, which was disappointing.
Think: What was disappointing- the site, or the lack of discoveries there?
Here are two clear ways:

Not many bones were uncovered at the site. The lack of discoveries was disappointing.
OR

That not many bones were discovered at the site was disappointing.
There are two more kinds of pronoun-reference errors to watch for,
Pronouns should not be used to refer to a possessive.
&
A pronoun that is too far away from is antecedent can be confusing.
Pronoun Shift
A sentence is unclear when there is an
unexpected shift in number or person between its
antecedent.
The following example has a shift in person between the pronoun and its antecedent.
Paleontologists need practice in the field, and you also need years of classroom work.
To fix the problem, use a pronoun in the same person and number as the antecedent, or revise the sentence so that it is clear.
Two examples are:
Paleontologists need practice in the field, and they also need years of work in the classroom.

Paleontologists need practice in the field, as well as years of classroom work.
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