ACT English : Pronoun-Antecedent Number Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

Example Question #31 : Pronoun Antecedent Number Errors

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

Each of the performers has an idea for their performance.

Possible Answers:

hers

his or her

its

his

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

his or her

Explanation:

In order to agree in number, a singular indefinite pronoun like "each" should take a singular pronoun referent like "his or her." The singular pronoun "each" is the subject of the sentence, not the plural "performers," so the plural pronoun referent "their" does not agree. Since the gender of the performers is not known, it is correct to use "his or her" rather than simply using "his." Since the performers are people, it is incorrect to use "its," which should refer to objects.

Example Question #32 : Pronoun Antecedent Number Errors

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

A teacher who fails to grade essays and exams on time can expect to field many complaints from their students at the end of each grading period.

Possible Answers:

his

his or her

hers

NO CHANGE

your

Correct answer:

his or her

Explanation:

The antecedent for the pronoun is "a teacher" which is singular, but without gender. Thus, the answer choice should use the correct genitive form of the pronoun, "his or her".

Example Question #33 : Pronoun Antecedent Number Errors

“On the Nature of Belief”

Belief and faith often are critiqued in a scientific culture.  It can seem that mere belief is a replacement for science made available to soothe the ignorant masses.  There is some truth to such accusations, and many people do use belief as a screen to cover their own ignorance about the truths of reality.  Everyone should be aware, however, that almost every single human being have these kinds of “blind spots.”  We all live with many things that we merely believe, all of which are so central to ones world view.

Even if we set aside all such types of beliefs, there still remains a broad terrain of human life in which faith and belief remain—even if we ignore all religious matters whatsoever.  Imagine the scientist who’s work on brain neurons depends upon many discoveries made by many other people.  Yes, if it were possible, it would be better for such a person to know all of the details that they accept merely at the word of other scientists.  In all cases, seeing directly is more fulfilling than merely hearing about something.

However, is the scientist better off when he or she knows only what they have experienced directly.  Although it is preferable that he or she knows such facts. However, it is impossible to investigate everything.  Sometimes, one must extend one’s own vision with the vision of someone else.  In a way, the person who thus “takes it on faith” gains a further vision.

Such faith always relies upon the credibility of the person who shares the experience, of course.  For one person to believe on faith what another person says, it is presupposed that the other person is not a liar and actually could have experienced the matter in question.  This means that even the “scientific believer” must take the risk of placing credibility in someone who has witnessed things that he or she has not seen.  While this does not vindicate every kind of faith that people have had, it does provide a telling sign that faith, as such, is not always the refuge of the ignorant.  Indeed, it is an important part of all of our lives, even the lives of scientists, who’s daring and investigative work is rarely criticized as being a refuge for ignorance!

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

Possible Answers:

, for such a person to know all of the details that they accept

for such a person to know all of the details that they accepts

NO CHANGE

for such a person to know all of the details that he or she accept

for such a person to know all of the details that he or she accepts

Correct answer:

for such a person to know all of the details that he or she accepts

Explanation:

The problem with this selection is the fact that "they" does not match the singular antecedent "such a person." You need pronouns to match not only in gender but also in number. Hence, you should use "he or she" in this case. This pronoun construction indicates a singular antecedent, namely "person."

Example Question #34 : Pronoun Antecedent Number Errors

“Justice and Parents”

We tend to think of justice as a matter of strict equality.  For example if someone wants to buy an item, they are understandably expected to pay an amount that is roughly equal to its value.  Likewise, when a law declares that the penalty for speeding is $150, it is considered just that one who breaks this law pays the fine.  However, justice can also pertain to matters that are beyond mere equality.

An obvious example of this is the case of the relationship between children and their parents.  Unlike the cases discussed earlier, children will have had little opportunity to repay they’re parents for all that they have done for them.  Technically speaking, strict “equality” would require the child to give birth to the parents.  This is an absurd thing to suggest.  Similarly absurd is the suggestion that children should directly repay the rearing offered by parents.  Once again, strict equality cannot occur in the child-parent relationship.

However, there is a kind of justice between children and his or her parents.  For example, when a parent ages and is in need of assistance, if the adult child can provide assistance but refuses to do so.  This is a kind of injustice to the parents.  On a more positive note.  For example, an adult child might send his parents on a cruise in memory of their anniversary.  Such an action would be a kind of “justice” done to the parents—at least in that it recognizes the immense debt that is owed by the child to the parents in question.

In these (and many other cases), justice is less about equality than it is about paying what one can pay.  That is, in such cases, both justice or injustice is determined by worthiness that surpasses mere equality.  This kind of justice could be called justice above justice.  That is, it is a kind of justice that surpasses the “normal” justice of equality.  Such acts of justice ensure that society does not become reduced to the cold calculation of equality but, instead, has the warmth of true affection and loving gratitude.

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

Possible Answers:

However, there is a kind of justice between children and one's own parents.

However, there is a kind of justice between children and their parents.

However, there is a kind of justice between children and his and her parents.

However, there is a kind of justice between children and one's parents.

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

However, there is a kind of justice between children and their parents.

Explanation:

As written, the sentence has an agreement error with regard to the word "children" and "his or her." The latter should be a plural form to match the plural form of "children." This is best done with the third-person plural pronoun "they." None of the other options accomplish this matching of number. The only possible tempting wrong answer might be "his and her."  This is form, however, is awkward in comparison with the more standard, "they."

Example Question #35 : Pronoun Antecedent Number Errors

After the unbelievable fame of J.K. Rowling the author of the Harry Potter series hundreds of idealistic authors struggled to achieve similar success. Because of Rowling's legendary accomplishments, we have invited the author, herself to the book signing so that she can share her experience to anyone that wants to listen. Whether you're an amateur writer, expert author, or simply an eager fan, all kinds of people can benefit from her insight. After all, if a person wants to be successful, you have to be willing to listen to the advice of others. If anyone are interested in attending, please contact the office before the end of the month.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of this passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, please select NO CHANGE. 

Possible Answers:

he or she has

NO CHANGE

you has

they have

we have

Correct answer:

he or she has

Explanation:

Pronouns in a sentence must be consistent. In other words, when pronouns are used more than once in a sentence, the pronouns must both be from the same perspective. In this example, because "a person" is used at the beginning and this is third person, the pronoun "he" or "she" must be used in order to stay in third person. Using "you" shifts to second person, and using "I" or "we" shifts to first person. Also, the pronoun "they" is plural, and "a person" is singular, making this choice incorrect. Therefore, only "he or she has" suffices.

Example Question #31 : Pronoun Antecedent Number Errors

Over winter break, our AP Spanish class took a trip to South America to practice the language and learn more about different Spanish-speaking cultures.  Before we left, every student had to get their vaccinations for yellow fever and typhoid. Our first stop was Bolivia. When we landed at El Alto airport the highest in the world, we could see the city of La Paz sprawling up the hillsides in the shadow of the Andes.   The first day in La Paz, we went to the Witches’s Market, run by local yatiri. The yatiri are medical practitioners who perform healing rituals in they’re communities. At the market, we saw dried frogs, llama fetuses, herbs, and seeds, used in various rituals. After we visited La Paz, we traveled to Cochabamba.  Cochabamba is Bolivia’s culinary capital, with delicious specialties such as salteñas and rellenos. In Cochabamba, we also climbed 1400 steps to see the Cristo de La Concordia statue, the tallest of it’s kind in South America. Next, we visited the salt flats of Uyuni.  Several lagoons dotted the high desert landscape, some of who were full of flamingos!

 

On our way out of Bolivia, we stopped at Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian border. Because the lake’s elevation is over 12,000 feet, some of my classmates experienced a bit of altitude sickness.  Despite the altitude sickness, everyone said they loved seeing the beautiful scenery and visiting the mysterious “floating islands” made of reeds.   When we crossed the border into Peru, one of my classmates thought she had lost her passport. I would of had a panic attack! She ended up finding it buried in a pocket of her backpack and we were on our way. 

 

My favorite part of Peru was our trek to the ancient Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. We spent four days hiking in the Andes on a trail to the ruins. Our guides, whom spoke Spanish, English, and Quechua, were very knowledgeable about the history, flora, and fauna in the region.  Upon waking up the next morning, a beautiful sunrise greeted us and cast the mountains in its soft pink glow. After we explored the ruins, we took a train ride back to Cuzco.  The next day, we flew to Lima and prepared to return home. I was sad to leave, but I know I would be back some day!

Select the answer that best corrects the bold underlined portion of the passage. If the sentence is correct as written, select NO CHANGE.

Possible Answers:

all of them

he or she

we

it

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

he or she

Explanation:

We need a pronoun that can modify the word "everyone."  "Everyone" is singular, so we need the singular "he or she."  

Example Question #37 : Pronoun Antecedent Number Errors

Over winter break, our AP Spanish class took a trip to South America to practice the language and learn more about different Spanish-speaking cultures.  Before we left, every student had to get their vaccinations for yellow fever and typhoid. Our first stop was Bolivia. When we landed at El Alto airport the highest in the world, we could see the city of La Paz sprawling up the hillsides in the shadow of the Andes.   The first day in La Paz, we went to the Witches’s Market, run by local yatiri. The yatiri are medical practitioners who perform healing rituals in they’re communities. At the market, we saw dried frogs, llama fetuses, herbs, and seeds, used in various rituals. After we visited La Paz, we traveled to Cochabamba.  Cochabamba is Bolivia’s culinary capital, with delicious specialties such as salteñas and rellenos. In Cochabamba, we also climbed 1400 steps to see the Cristo de La Concordia statue, the tallest of it’s kind in South America. Next, we visited the salt flats of Uyuni.  Several lagoons dotted the high desert landscape, some of who were full of flamingos!

 

On our way out of Bolivia, we stopped at Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian border. Because the lake’s elevation is over 12,000 feet, some of my classmates experienced a bit of altitude sickness.  Despite the altitude sickness, everyone said they loved seeing the beautiful scenery and visiting the mysterious “floating islands” made of reeds.   When we crossed the border into Peru, one of my classmates thought she had lost her passport. I would of had a panic attack! She ended up finding it buried in a pocket of her backpack and we were on our way. 

 

My favorite part of Peru was our trek to the ancient Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. We spent four days hiking in the Andes on a trail to the ruins. Our guides, whom spoke Spanish, English, and Quechua, were very knowledgeable about the history, flora, and fauna in the region.  Upon waking up the next morning, a beautiful sunrise greeted us and cast the mountains in its soft pink glow. After we explored the ruins, we took a train ride back to Cuzco.  The next day, we flew to Lima and prepared to return home. I was sad to leave, but I know I would be back some day!

Select the answer choice that best corrects the bolded, underlined portion of the passage. If the sentence is correct as written, select NO CHANGE.

Possible Answers:

every student had to get there vaccinations

every student had to get they're vaccinations

every student had to get it's vaccinations

every student had to get his or her vaccinations

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

every student had to get his or her vaccinations

Explanation:

Every student is singular, so it needs the singular pronoun "his or her" rather than plural pronoun "their." They're and there are incorrect uses of the possessive "their" and still do not address the need for a singular pronoun, and students are people so typically are not referred to as "it"-and even if they were, its, not it's, would be the correct form.

Example Question #38 : Pronoun Antecedent Number Errors

“What is Leisure?”

It would likely surprise [1] modern readers if he or she were told that the meaning of life is leisure. This seems to be the same thing as saying that the meaning of life is nothing more than relaxing by the side of the pool. [2] One can imagine almost anyone thinking to himself, “What a preposterous idea.” This idea is not as foreign as it might appear at first glance. Indeed, [3] it could be considered the classic Western position about the very meaning of life. [4] This, of course, lies in contrast to all other global positions, but that’s a topic for another day.

[5] Of course, we need to understand what is meant by the word leisure if we are going to understand this assertion. The best way to understand this is to consider a contrast between two different kinds of activity. [6] On the one hand, there are many activities that are for the sake of something else. [7] On the other hand. There are those activities that are done for their own sake. These latter kinds of activities are those that are properly understood as being leisurely. [8] For example, when someone cuts onions for a meal, the cutting of the onions is not done for their own sake. The easiest way to figure out if something is being done for the sake of another end is to ask, “Why are you doing that.” [9] The onion cutter will answer, “I am doing it so that I can make dinner.” This helps us to see that the cutting of the onions is for the sake of something else. [10] Indeed, even the eating of dinner is for the sake of something else, namely attaining adequate nutrition.

[11] In contrast to these examples, leisurely activities are those that are done for they’re own sake. [12] For example, ask someone who enjoys organ music why he is listening to an organ concert. The answer will almost certainly be, “For the sake of listening to organ music. It is that important and beautiful!” Many things can be considered leisurely, including forms of games that are played merely for their own enjoyment; however, it is important to bear in mind that there is a hierarchy of goods. [13] Some types of leisure are better than others and likely are more preferable.

Choose the answer that best corrects section [1].

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

modern readers if he and she were told that

modern readers if they were told that

modern reader if he or she were told that

Correct answer:

modern readers if they were told that

Explanation:

Based on the rest of the sentence, the subject "readers" clearly must remain plural. This issue, however, is that the pronoun set "he or she" is actually a singular subject. The conjunction "or" indicates that only one or the other of the pronouns is the subject of the conditional clause beginning with "if." You need to match this to the plural referent, "readers." Therefore, change "he or she" to "they."

Example Question #39 : Pronoun Antecedent Number Errors

“What is Leisure?” 

It would likely surprise [1] modern readers if he or she were told that the meaning of life is leisure. This seems to be the same thing as saying that the meaning of life is nothing more than relaxing by the side of the pool. [2] One can imagine almost anyone thinking to himself, “What a preposterous idea.” This idea is not as foreign as it might appear at first glance. Indeed, [3] it could be considered the classic Western position about the very meaning of life. [4] This, of course, lies in contrast to all other global positions, but that’s a topic for another day.

[5] Of course, we need to understand what is meant by the word leisure if we are going to understand this assertion. The best way to understand this is to consider a contrast between two different kinds of activity. [6] On the one hand, there are many activities that are for the sake of something else. [7] On the other hand. There are those activities that are done for their own sake. These latter kinds of activities are those that are properly understood as being leisurely. [8] For example, when someone cuts onions for a meal, the cutting of the onions is not done for their own sake. The easiest way to figure out if something is being done for the sake of another end is to ask, “Why are you doing that.” [9] The onion cutter will answer, “I am doing it so that I can make dinner.” This helps us to see that the cutting of the onions is for the sake of something else. [10] Indeed, even the eating of dinner is for the sake of something else, namely attaining adequate nutrition.

[11] In contrast to these examples, leisurely activities are those that are done for they’re own sake. [12] For example, ask someone who enjoys organ music why he is listening to an organ concert. The answer will almost certainly be, “For the sake of listening to organ music. It is that important and beautiful!” Many things can be considered leisurely, including forms of games that are played merely for their own enjoyment; however, it is important to bear in mind that there is a hierarchy of goods. [13] Some types of leisure are better than others and likely are more preferable.

Choose the answer that best corrects section [8].

Possible Answers:

For example, when someone cuts onions for a meal, the cutting of the onions is not done for it's own sake.

NO CHANGE

For example, when someone cuts onions for a meal, the cutting of the onions is not done for they're own sake.

For example, when someone cuts onions for a meal, the cutting of the onions is not done for its own sake.

Correct answer:

For example, when someone cuts onions for a meal, the cutting of the onions is not done for its own sake.

Explanation:

This question comes down to answering this question: "To what does the word 'their' refer?" It refers to "cutting" not to "onions." This is important because "cutting" is a singular noun. Therefore, the pronoun must agree with the singular number. Its proper form is "its." Note that it is not "it's." That is a contraction of "it is" not the possessive form.

Example Question #40 : Pronoun Antecedent Number Errors

The Common Good: The United Aim of Many” 

Among the many topics that are misunderstood [16] in political science, and political philosophy, the notion of the “common good” ranks foremost. Often, we think of the common good as being nothing more than getting “the most things for the most people.” For example, when a person makes multiple millions of dollars, people will often say, [17] “He should give back some of that money, for the sake of the common good.” Whether or not such people [18] should do this with his money, this is really an improper use of the expression the common good.

A better way to understand the common good is to think about common ends or common goals. An example will help to explain this. Think of a group of musicians on a stage. If all of these people came together to practice in the same room, we wouldn’t call them a symphony. [19] A mass of people just playing any music whatsoever are not a symphony. A symphony is an organized group; a mass of people is just a mass of people. Nothing physically differs regarding the mass of people and the symphony. [20] They are both made up of the same “stuff,” namely a group of musicians.

However, a common good changes [21] this mass into something that they never could be without that common good. [22] When these musicians come together to play the Dies Irae of Mozart, they become something that they never were as individuals.  Each member of the group uses his or her personal skill for the sake of a new, common performance. Perhaps the tuba player loves to play loudly.  Perhaps the lead violinist loves playing quickly.  These preferences must be channeled and limited for the sake of the common enterprise of playing Mozart’s stirring piece of music. [23] The desires of the individual instrumentalists, whom play the music, no longer reigns supreme.

The common good unites this group. If you were to ask the tuba player, what are you doing, he would answer, “Taking part in the symphonic playing of the Dies Irae.” [24] Then, if you were to ask any other musician the same question, he or she would answer in the same way. The answer would not be, “playing the Dies Irae my way.” If that were the answer, the musician would not be part of the symphony. He or she would be doing something private, not something that is truly common.

Choose the answer that best corrects section [21].

Possible Answers:

these masses into something that it never could

NO CHANGE

this mass into something that they could never

this mass into something that it never could

Correct answer:

this mass into something that it never could

Explanation:

As written, the issue with this selection is the fact that the pronoun "they" does not agree with its antecedent. It refers back to the mass of people. Yes, there are multiple individuals in this "mass." As such, the mass is a particular, unified whole. It therefore requires a singular pronoun—it.

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