ACT English : Other Pronoun-Antecedent Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Question #1 : Other Pronoun Antecedent Errors

Adapted from "The Ephemera: An Emblem of Human Life" by Benjamin Franklin (1778)

You may remember, my dear friend, that when we lately spent that happy day in the delightful garden and sweet society of the Moulin Joly, I stopped a little in one of our walks, and stay some time behind the company. We had been shown numberless skeletons of a kind of little fly, called an ephemera, whose successive generations, we were told, were bred and expired within the day. I happened to see a living company of them on a leaf, who appeared to be engaged in conversation. You know I understand all the inferior animal tongues. My too great application to the study of them is the best excuse I can give for the little progress I have made in your charming language. I listened through curiosity to the discourse of these little creatures; but as they, in their national vivacity, spoke three or four together, I could make but little of their conversation. I found however by some broken expressions that I heard now and then, they were disputing warmly on the merit of two foreign musicians, one a "cousin," the other a "moscheto": in which dispute they spent their time, seemingly as regardless of the shortness of life as if they had been sure of living a month. Happy people! thought I; you are certainly under a wise just and mild government, since you have no public grievances to complain of, nor any subject of contention but the perfections and imperfections of foreign music. I turned my head from them to an old gray-headed one, who was single on another leaf, and talking to himself. Being amused with his soliloquy, I put it down in writing, in hopes it will likewise amuse her to who I am so much indebted for the most pleasing of all amusements, her delicious company and heavenly harmony.

Which of the following antecedents does the underlined pronoun "who" refer to?

Possible Answers:

the flies

the leaf

the skeletons

Franklin's companions

Correct answer:

the flies

Explanation:

In the independent clause of the sentence containing the underlined "who," Franklin refers to "a living company" of the flies sitting on a leaf. So, the "who" refers to them.

Example Question #2 : Other Pronoun Antecedent Errors

Paul stood waiting, for the meeting with James. He had arrived early at the little alleyway in northern Bramville, waiting to meet the other man at a pub named the “Pick and the Shovel.” The whole situation was extremely strange, for Paul had never met James. Indeed, nobody whom Paul knew had met him. Hitherto, the mysterious man had been nothing more than a voice on the phone and a conversationalist via e-mail.

The making, of the trip to Bramville, was utterly unexpected, and his companions had encouraged him to reconnoiter the situation, record his thoughts, and communicate them within the coming week. Many peoples’ fates rode on the character of this mysterious man, this James. By stroke of luck, Paul was about to meet him.

Although Paul was quite certain that this was the appropriate course of action, he was still quite unnerved. Thousands of miles from his home, far from any friends, and without a cell phone, he could well be the target of a dangerous man. For this reason, he watched very intently as every person passed by, particularly those men who were alone. Many times, he asked himself, “Is that him”?

Thus, Paul watched and waited, somewhat overcome with fear yet also anxious to meet this mysterious man. It was time for a meeting with this man, upon whose mysterious persona were placed so many hopes. Though Paul was nervous to be the person to meet James, he knew that he was the man to whom this task had been appointed by fate.

Choose the answer that best corrects the underlined portion of the passage. If the underlined portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

Many times, he asked aloud, "Is that him?"

NO CHANGE

Many times, he asked them, "Is that him"?

Many times, he asked himself, "Is that him?"

Many times, he asked him, "Is that him"?

Correct answer:

Many times, he asked himself, "Is that him?"

Explanation:

The paragraph seems to indicate that Paul is standing and watching silently for the arrival of James. Therefore, the best option will be the one that presents him as silently asking this question. The reflexive pronoun "himself" helps to express this sense, for it means that Paul's questioning is solely directed back to himself and not necessarily to any other person in public.

Example Question #3 : Other Pronoun Antecedent Errors

Adapted from “The Nose Tree” in German Fairy Tales and Popular Stories by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm (trans. Taylor, ed. 1864)

Then the king made known to all his kingdom, that whomever would heal her of this dreadful disease should be richly rewarded. Many tried, but the princess got no relief. Now the old soldier dressed himself up very sprucely as a doctor, and said he could cure her. Therefore, he chopped up some of the apple, and, to punish her a little more, gave her a dose, saying he would call to-morrow and see her again. The morrow came, and, of course, instead of being better, the nose had been growing on all night as before; and the poor princess was in a dreadful fright. So the doctor then chopped up a very little of the pear and gave it to her. He said that he was sure that it would help, and he would call again the next day. Next day came, and the nose was to be sure a little smaller. However, it was bigger than when the doctor first began to meddle with it.

Then he thought to him, "I must frighten this cunning princess a little more before I am able to get what I want from her." Therefore, he gave her another dose of the apple and said he would call on the morrow. The morrow came, and the nose was ten times bad as before.

"My good lady," said the doctor, "Something works against my medicine and is to strong for it. However, I know by the force of my art that it is this, you have stolen goods about you. I am certain of it. If you do not give them back, I can do nothing for you."

The princess denied very stoutly that she had anything of the kind.

"Very well," said the doctor, "you may do as you please, but I am sure I am correct. You will die if you do not own it." Then he went to the king, and told him how the matter stood.

"Daughter," said he, "send back the cloak, the purse, and the horn, that you stole from the right owners."

Then she ordered her maid to fetch all three and gave them to the doctor, and begged him to give them back to the soldiers. The moment he had them safe, he gave her a whole pear to eat, and the nose came right. And as for the doctor, he put on the cloak, wished the king and all his court a good day and was soon with his two brothers. They lived from that time happily at home in their palace, except when they took an airing to see the world in their coach with their three dapple-grey horses.

What is the best form of the underlined selection, "Then he thought to him"?

Possible Answers:

Then he thought to himself

Then he thought to hisself

Then he thought to he

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

Then he thought to himself

Explanation:

From the context, we can tell that the author means to say that the doctor is thinking internally (that is, thinking "to himself"). This calls for the use of a reflexive pronoun, namely "himself." Such a pronoun indicates that the action of the verb "returns" or "reflects" back on to the subject.

Example Question #4 : Other Pronoun Antecedent Errors

In the last day of classes (1), everyone was distracted and unable to do their (2) work.  Even the teacher, which normally (3) was attentive and cheery, seems (4) unable to focus.  The final test took (5) way too long for everyone to complete, and many of students (6) had put down his head (7) on the desk.  The sound of the heat blowing through the room was enough to put everyone (8) to sleep, and the teachers' (9) eyes began drooping despite hisself (10).  After what seemed an eternity; (11) the bell had rung (12) and everyone, including the teacher, ran out of the room.

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number.  If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

herself

him self

himself

Correct answer:

himself

Explanation:

While the gender of the teacher is unknown, using "himself" here is a safe assumption and less awkward than "him or herself" would be.

Example Question #5 : Other Pronoun Antecedent Errors

Travelling can be both fun stressful. If you leaves the country, you should always keep your passport with you. A domestic trip may be more palatable to the xenophobic. However, even a short road trip can be scary than staying at home. People would be wise to simply treat them to a movie.

Choose the answer that best corrects the underlined portion of the passage. If the underlined portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

People would be wise to simply treat themself to a movie.

People would be wise to simply treat themselves to a movie.

People would be wise to simply treat ourself to a movie.

NO CHANGE

People would be wise to simply treat yourself to a movie.

Correct answer:

People would be wise to simply treat themselves to a movie.

Explanation:

Reflexive pronouns are used to refer back to the subject of the sentence. The subject is "people," which is plural, so the reflexive pronoun must also be plural. "Ourself" and "yourself" do not refer to "people."

Example Question #6 : Other Pronoun Antecedent Errors

"A Unique Journey" by Jasmine Tilley (2013)

While I was studying abroad in Europe, I had the great opportunity to travel to different countries. For one of my adventures, I chose to travel to Switzerland; however, the classmates I usually traveled with were unable to come with me. I was faced in deciding whether to go alone or not at all. This decision was easy for me, I was not going to pass up the opportunity to see Switzerland!

I first had to board a train from where I was staying in Italy to reach the southern part of Switzerland. Unfortunately, the train workers were on strike that day, so I ended up delayed in Milan for several hours. Soon enough I was on my way again.  However, shortly after I reached the Switzerland border, the train stopped because one of the cars was filled with smoke! I still have no idea what happened, but after a few minutes we were moving again.

Once I finally reached Geneva, I had to walk to find the hostel where I was staying that I had booked. It was night, and I realized that I was truly alone. I did not know another soul in this entire country! This thought was both scary and exciting.

The next day, I walked all around Geneva. Being my own tour guide was a fantastic adventure. I saw all the major sites while also experiencing the culture. There was some sort of marathon going on that day, and there was so much excitement all throughout the city. There were live bands. It even rained off and on. Everything was new and interesting, and I loved it.

That evening, I boarded a train to Zermatt. Prior to this journey, I had no idea that the Matterhorn was an actual mountain! The city of Zermatt was very tiny and had no cars, only small electric vehicles that resembled wind-up toys. The whole city was lit up, and though I was walking to my hostel at night again, I felt very safe. Walking through Geneva at night, though, starkly contrasted it.

The next day, I decided to go skiing on the beautiful, snowy mountains in Zermatt. I rented a pair of skis and spent a few hours skiing in my jeans and coat! It was an amazing experience.

My journey to Switzerland is dear to me not just because of the many beautiful and exciting things I experienced, but also because I was alone. I had the time as well as the quiet atmosphere to absorb and contemplate not just what was going on around me but also what was going on inside myself. I felt changed somehow. I felt stronger and more independent.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of the passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

me

NO CHANGE

OMIT the underlined portion and end the sentence with a period.

I

Correct answer:

me

Explanation:

Even though we frequently use "myself" in similar contexts in everyday language, the correct answer is to use the pronoun "me" instead. "Myself" is a reflexive pronoun, reflexive pronouns are properly used only when the subject and the object of a verb is the same person or group of people.

Example Question #7 : Other Pronoun Antecedent Errors

Margaret Mitchell the writer was having a horrible day. She just completed her latest novel when the tornado sirens went off. Fast, she rushed down into the basement, barricaded the door, and she sat in a corner of the dank dusty room to wait for the storm to pass. The winds howled noisy and increased in intensity until it sounded like the tornado was right above her. Suddenly, a gigantic bang echoed throughout the basement and Margaret dropped to the floor in terror. Then just as suddenly the noise vanished. Margaret got up and dusted her off before moving hesitantly toward the basement door. She opened it, and found the house above her was completely gone. Despite the horror of the site, she sighed and muttered, "Oh, well." A neighbor came running up to her and said, "Margaret! Thank goodness your alive! But what happened to your house, and what about your new book?" Margaret gave a rueful smile and replied, "Oh, that's Gone With The Wind."

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of the passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

herself

her own self

her self

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

herself

Explanation:

The reflexive pronoun "herself" is appropriate since Margaret is dusting off her own body.

Example Question #8 : Other Pronoun Antecedent Errors

The house stood, at the bottom of a hill, making it hard to see from the street. The owner wants it that way, as he had no use for any of his neighbors. “Nosy sneaks and cheats” he would to say to his son. Not that his son ever really listening. The old man did not see him very much, either at his home or going anywhere else. Every time he did see him, his son would just complain about how his house was dark musty, and filthy. The old man did not need such criticism, especially from only his blood relative. He had lived in that house for fifty years, and planned to live there as long as he possibly could. While he lived there, his neighbors would never see him or his house if he could help it. He could take care of him, and steadfastly refused to allow anyone to help. In his tiny house, at the bottom of the hill, the old man was content to be alone, and believed he was living perfect.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of the passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

He can take care of him,

He could taking care of him,

NO CHANGE

He could take care of himself,

Correct answer:

He could take care of himself,

Explanation:

The use of the simple objective pronoun "him" in the underlined sentence is confusing, as it could refer to either of the two men discussed in the passage. By replacing "him" with the reflexive pronoun "himself," which can properly refer back to the subject of the sentence, this confusion is clarified. Therefore, the correct answer choice is the only one that uses the reflexive pronoun "himself," "He could take care of himself."

Example Question #9 : Other Pronoun Antecedent Errors

As a child the only thing I wanted to be was a race car driver. My mothers family all lived in central Indiana, and I went to the Indianapolis 500 every year growing up. Between the colors on the cars the speed of the race and the enthusiasm of the crowd, nothing in the world seemed more exciting to a child. I would lay awake at night thinking about getting behind the wheel of my own race car. My bedroom walls were adorned with posters of the all great racers from all over the world.

When I was a teenager, I had the opportunity to race go karts on small tracks against other kids my age. Very quickly I realized I am the terrible driver. Any bumping with another driver was too much for me to handle, and I could not take the turns quick enough to keep pace with the best drivers. None of this diminished my love of racing, however, because just being at the track was such a thrill. The noise, the speed, and rushing were all more exciting from the pits than from the grandstand. If I could never be in the driver’s seat, then I would place myself behind the scenes.

With this new focus, I began studying mechanical engineering and automotive design. I might not have been able to drive a race car; but now I could design a car, build a car, and engineer it to win a race. The drivers still get all the credit for the championships, but everyone knows they would never win without the people like myself.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of the passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

without people like myself

NO CHANGE

without the persons like myself

without the people like me

Correct answer:

without the people like me

Explanation:

The use of the reflexive pronoun "myself" in this sentence is wrong, as a reflexive pronoun needs a previous use of the simple pronoun to refer back to. The sentence works perfectly well with the simple first person objective pronoun, making the correct answer choice "without the people like me."

Example Question #2 : Other Pronoun Antecedent Errors

Adapted from The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1774; trans. Boylan 1854)

That the life of man is but a dream, many a man has surmised heretofore. I, too, am everywhere pursued by this feeling. When I consider the narrow limits within which our active and inquiring faculties are confined, I am silent. Likewise, when I see how all our energies are wasted in providing for mere necessities, which again has no further end than to prolong a wretched existence, I find myself to be silenced. Indeed, discovering that all our satisfaction concerning certain subjects of investigation ends in nothing better than a passive resignation, while we amuse ourselves painting our prison-walls with bright figures and brilliant landscapes—when I consider all this Wilhelm—I am silent. I examine my own being, and find there a world, but a world rather of imagination and dim desires, than of distinctness and living power. Then, everything swims before my senses, and I smile and dream while pursuing my way through the world.

All learned professors and doctors are agreed that children do not comprehend the cause of their desires; however, nobody is willing to acknowledge that the grown-ups should wander about this earth like children, without knowing whence they come or whither they go, influenced as little by fixed motives but, instead, guided like them by biscuits, sugar-plums, and the rod.

I know what you will say in reply. Indeed, I am ready to admit that they are happiest, who, like children, amuse themselves with their playthings, dress and undress their dolls.  They are happiest, who attentively watch the cupboard, where mamma has locked up her sweet things, and, when at last they get a delicious morsel, eat it greedily, and exclaim, "More!" These are certainly happy beings; but others also are objects of envy, who dignify their paltry employments (and sometimes even their passions) with pompous titles, representing them to mankind as gigantic achievements performed for their welfare and glory. However, the man who humbly acknowledges the vanity of all this, who observes with what pleasure the thriving citizen converts his little garden into a paradise, and how patiently even the poor man pursues his weary way under his burden, and how all wish equally to behold the light of the sun a little longer—yes, such a man is at peace, and creates his own world within himself. Indeed, he is also happy precisely because he is a man. And then, however limited his sphere, he still preserves in his bosom the sweet feeling of liberty and knows that he can quit his prison whenever he likes.

What is the best form of the bolded pronoun "myself"?

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

me

mine

I

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

The verb "to find" is being used reflexively in this sentence. The subject is not finding something else outside of himself. Instead, he is finding (i.e. discovering) himself to be in a certain state—to be silenced. Such a use of the verb requires the reflexive pronoun "myself."

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