PSAT Writing : Correcting Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Correcting Pronoun Antecedent Agreement Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

An individual's optimal pulse rate, the study shows, depends on their weight, height, and age.

Possible Answers:

depends on their weight, height, and age

have depended on their weight, height, and age

depends on his or her weight, height, and how old they are

depends on his or her weight, height, and age

has depended on their weight, height, and age

Correct answer:

depends on his or her weight, height, and age

Explanation:

The original text contains a pronoun agreement error. The possessive pronoun "their" is plural, but it is intended to refer to the singular noun "individual." We must use singular possessive pronouns instead, such as "his or her."

Only answer choices "depends on his or her weight, height, and how old they are" and "depends on his or her weight, height, and age" correctly use "his or her" instead of "their," but answer choice "depends on his or her weight, height, and how old they are" does not use correct parallel structure. Therefore, the answer choice "depends on his or her weight, height, and age" is correct.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Pronoun Antecedent Agreement Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

The reason that so many ancient empires no longer exist is that they became too large for its government to collect tax revenues from citizens.

Possible Answers:

is that they became too large for its government to collect tax revenues from citizens

is that it became too large for its government to collect tax revenues from citizens

are that they became too large for its government to collect tax revenues from citizens

is that they became too large for their governments to collect tax revenues from citizens

are that it became too large for its government to collect tax revenues from citizens

Correct answer:

is that they became too large for their governments to collect tax revenues from citizens

Explanation:

The original text contains a pronoun reference error. The antecedent of "its" is "empires," which is plural. We should therefore use the plural possessive pronoun "their" instead of the singular possessive pronoun "its." Only the answer choice "is that they became too large for their governments to collect tax revenues from citizens" correctly uses the plural posessive pronoun.

Example Question #3 : Correcting Pronoun Antecedent Agreement Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

Nearly half of the states in the U.S. have declared English as their official language.

Possible Answers:

as it’s official language

as its official languages

as their official language

as its official language

as their official languages

Correct answer:

as their official languages

Explanation:

The original sentence lacks agreement. “Half of the states” is plural and in the third person, so it should say “as their official languages.” 

Example Question #4 : Correcting Pronoun Antecedent Agreement Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

In many countries, the amount of money the government collects from their taxpayers is relative to individual income.

Possible Answers:

it’s taxpayers is relative to an individual’s income

their taxpayers is relative to individual income

there taxpayers is relative to individuals’ incomes

their taxpayers is relative to the individual’s income

its taxpayers is relative to individual income

Correct answer:

its taxpayers is relative to individual income

Explanation:

Since the government is a thing or institution, the sentence should say “its taxpayers.” The contraction “it’s” stands for “it is,” and therefore, is not possessive.

Example Question #986 : Correcting Grammatical Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

In addition to helping the environment, renewable resources—such as solar power and hydroelectricity—may also provide an economic benefit, as it may reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Possible Answers:

this being the reduction in our dependence on foreign oil.

as it reduces our dependence on foreign oil.

as it may reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

as they may reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

as they depend on the reduction of foreign oil.

Correct answer:

as they may reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Explanation:

The pronoun "it" should be plural because its antecedent is the plural subject "resources." Only two choices correcty change "it" to "they," but one of them, "as they depend on the reduction of foreign oil," confuses cause and effect. The resources are not dependent on the reduction of foreign oil. The correct answer is "as they may reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

Example Question #9 : Correcting Pronoun Antecedent Agreement Errors

Most men who go to sporting events find it an enjoyable diversion.

Possible Answers:

Most men who go to sporting events find it an enjoyable diversion.

Most men who go to sporting events find it to be an enjoyable diversion.

Many men who go to sporting events find it an enjoyable diversion.

Most of the men who go to sporting events find it an enjoyable diversion.

Most men who go to sporting events find them an enjoyable diversion.

Correct answer:

Most men who go to sporting events find them an enjoyable diversion.

Explanation:

The sentence as written contains one small error. "It," a singular pronoun, is used to refer to the plural "sporting events." In order to fix this issue, the pronoun needs to be made plural, which is done in "Most men who go to sporting events find them an enjoyable diversion."

Example Question #10 : Correcting Pronoun Antecedent Agreement Errors

While it can seem like a daunting task to train for a marathon, anyone who has completed the challenge knows that preparing a plan that they stick to is the key to success. 

Identify the answer choice that best improves the underlined portion of the sentence. 

Possible Answers:

preparing, and having that be a plan that they stick to

preparing a plan that he sticks to

sticking to a plan 

preparing a plan and sticking to it

preparing a plan that they stick to

Correct answer:

preparing a plan and sticking to it

Explanation:

In this sentence, the subject is "anyone," a singular pronoun. Therefore, all pronouns relating back to "anyone" should be singular. In the underlined portion of the sentence, "preparing a plan that they stick to," "they" is plural, not singular. Now that we have identified the problem, we have to figure out how to correct it.

Given that "anyone" is gender neutral, the best way to improve this sentence is avoid the use of a gendered pronoun (meaning "he" or "she") and simply avoid using a pronoun at all. The correct answer, "preparing a plan and sticking to it," accomplishes this objective and is therefore the best way to improve the sentence.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Pronoun Antecedent Agreement Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

Just as they finished work for the day, the worker found his lost green helmet and made his way home happily.

Possible Answers:

Just as they finished work for the day, the worker finds his lost green helmet and made his way home happily.

Just as he finished work for the day, the worker found his lost green helmet and made his way home happily.

Just as they finished work for the day, the worker found his lost green helmet and made his way home happily.

Just as he finished work for the day, his lost green helmet was found by the worker, who made his way home happily.

Just as he finished work for the day, the worker found his lost green helmet and made his way home happy.

Correct answer:

Just as he finished work for the day, the worker found his lost green helmet and made his way home happily.

Explanation:

The original sentence contains an error in noun-pronoun agreement: the plural possessive pronoun "their" is used to refer to "the worker," a singular noun. We need to use a singular possessive pronoun to refer to a singular noun, and our choices in this case are "his," "her," and "its." One doesn't use "its" to refer to people, and while "the worker" is not a gendered noun, we can tell that the worker being described in the sentence is male because of the use of the possessive pronoun "his" in the phrases "his lost green helmet" and "made his way home happily." For the sentence to be correct, we need to replace "their" with "his," so the correct answer is "Just as he finished work for the day, the worker found his lost green helmet and made his way home happily."

Example Question #1 : Correcting Pronoun Antecedent Agreement Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Although the basketball team used their star players, the match was lost.

Possible Answers:

The basketball team used its star players, although

Although the star players were used by the basketball team

Although the basketball team used its star players

The basketball team used their star players

Although the basketball team used their star players

Correct answer:

Although the basketball team used its star players

Explanation:

Choose a pronoun that properly agrees with the subject. In this case, "basketball team" is singular, although it represents a group of people, and should be accompanied with "its," instead of "their."

Example Question #2 : Correcting Pronoun Antecedent Agreement Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Small in size, the mongoose may not seem like an imposing creature, but when threatened they can fight off and even slay a large predator such as the king cobra. No error

Possible Answers:

they

No error

an imposing creature

Small in size

fight off and even slay

Correct answer:

they

Explanation:

"They," a plural pronoun, is used in the sentence to refer to "the mongoose," a singular subject. So, "they" should be changed to "it."

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