Before we start, let’s understand what a pronoun is. Essentially, a pronoun takes the place of a noun. Usually somebody, something or some location had been mentioned, and a pronoun is used to refer back to what was mentioned. The prononun can sometimes be used even before the person, object or location was mentioned. Hence, it is important that student read the entire passage to figure out what the pronoun is referring to.
COMMON ERROR THREE. PRONOUNS
A subjective personal pronoun is used to replace the subject of a sentence while the objective pronoun replaces the noun that the subject of the sentence affects. Students are required to identify the mix up between subject and object personal pronouns.
- “I enjoy my birthday tea at my house and my friends and me (I) usually watch the National Day parade on TV.” – 2013 (Object pronoun instead of subject pronoun)
A relative pronoun is used to connect two ideas or phrases in a sentence. The most common relative pronouns are who, whom, which, whoever, whomever, whichever, and that.
- “This year’s highlight was the fabulous Red Lion skydivers, which (who) jumped from helicopters on to the floating stage.” – 2013 (Wrong relative pronoun – ‘which’ refers to objects)
- Although no one was hurt in this incident, about 70 shark attacks take place every year worldwide, some of whom (which) are fatal.” – 2017 (Wrong relative pronoun)
HOW TO SPOT AND EDIT PRONOUN ERRORS
There is no foolproof way to identify and correct pronoun errors, but there are three tips that will help a student.
a. Know the difference
Know the difference between subject pronouns (I, you, he, she, it, we and they) and object pronouns (me, you, him, her, it, us and them). Understand that subject pronouns ‘act‘ while object pronouns ‘receive the action‘. For example, ‘… my friends and I usually watch…’ The subject pronoun is used as it is doing an action (watch).
b. Find the antecedent
Since pronouns replace a noun, it is important to know what that noun is. This noun is called the antecedent. How do we know that is the antecedent? One simple strategy is to replace the pronoun with the antecedent. For example, ‘Red Lion skydivers jumped from helicopters on to the floating stage’. In the 2013 ‘O’ Level Editing section, it is the Red Lion skydivers who jumped.
c. Find the mismatch
Pronouns must always match the antecedent. The matching could be in terms of gender, singular/plural or in terms of type (person, place, time, etc). With reference to the same 2013 ‘O’ Level question, the error word is ‘which’, used for objects. However, the Red Lion skydivers are people; thus ‘who’ is the correct word.
We hope that you pick up some pointers from our post. We have attached a simple tip sheet at the end of this blog as an easy reference of the tips we have shared.
It is sometimes not easy for adults to pick up these errors, let alone teenagers. If you have any questions on how to do well in Editing, please feel free to contact us.
For newcomers to this blog, we have based it on our One-Page Summary (OPS) of the four most common mistakes for the Editing section. To download the OPS, please click here.
We hope you will join us in our next blog post.