Description: This lesson provides students with a grammar review exercise about pronoun-antecedent agreement in writing (and speaking)
Objectives: For grade level 8, (competency goal 6) The learner will apply conventions of grammar and language usage. Specifically, the learner will use pronouns correctly, including clear antecedents and correct case (6.01) and will be able to identify errors in spoken and written English (6.02). This lesson would be used during instruction for writing assignments, or following demonstration of errors in student writing and speaking.
Goals: Students will understand what pronoun-antecedent agreement is, and will learn how to correct problems with pronoun-antecedent agreement.
Materials/Resources: Materials needed: Overhead projector; pencils; handouts of pronoun agreement rules; handouts of exercise for classwork; transparencies of handouts.
Time needed: 20 minutes.
Give students the “Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement” guidelines handouts and explain the “rules” for pronoun-antecedent agreement. First ask students, as a review, to define pronouns.
[Wait for response.]
“Write these on your sheet and we’ll file these in our notebooks to keep.”
“A pronoun is a substitute for a noun. It refers to a person, place, thing, feeling, or quality but does not refer to it by its name. What is an antecedent?”
[Wait for responses, then explain the definition of the antecedent.]
“An antecedent is the word, phrase, or clause to which a pronoun refers, understood by the context. For example, in the sentence, ‘Anybody can have his picture made at the studio,’ the pronoun is ‘his’ and the antecedent is ‘anybody’.” [Write the sentence on the overhead.]
Explain, “The problem comes when we say or write sentences in which the pronoun and antecedent don’t agree. Although we tend to say these incorrectly at times (but we shouldn’t), the error is even more noticeable when written.”
“The basic principle is, ‘A pronoun usually refers to something earlier in the text (its antecedent) and must agree in number — singular/plural — with the thing to which it refers’.”
“So, some of the rules to remember are (fill these in on your sheet):
1. The indefinite pronouns anyone, anybody, everyone, everybody, someone, somebody, no one, and nobody are always singular. This is sometimes perplexing to writers who feel that everyone and everybody (especially) are referring to more than one person. The same is true of either and neither, which are always singular even though they seem to be referring to two things.”
On board or overhead projector, write and discuss an example of an incorrect sentence, such as, “Everyone needs to stay in their seat.” Explain that “everyone” is singular, and “their” is plural, so the two don’t agree. Ask students to help revise the sentence.
[Wait for response, and write revised sentences on transparency.]
“The revised sentence should read, ‘Everyone needs to stay in his seat.’ or ‘They need to stay in their seats’.”
“Besides number, our pronouns must agree in other ways with the antecedents to which they refer. So, another rule to remember is:
2. The need for pronoun-antecedent agreement can create gender problems. If one were to write, for instance, ‘A student must see his counselor before the end of the semester,’ when there are female students around, nothing but grief will follow. One can pluralize, in this situation, to avoid the problem.”
[Say the revised sentences:]
Students must see their counselor before the end of the semester.
Or, one could say
· A student must see his or her counselor. . . .
“But, too many his's and her's eventually become annoying, however, and the reader becomes more aware of the writer trying to be conscious of good form than he or she is of the writer’s thoughts.
3. Trying to conform to the above rule (#2) can lead to a great deal of nonsense. Although it is incorrect, it’s widely regarded as being correct (or correct enough), to say
· Somebody has left their bag on the floor. [Display sentence on board.]
but many people would object to its being written that way because somebody is singular and their is plural. But, we want to learn to say it and write it correctly. I don’t think people take us seriously as writers when we use incorrect grammar.”
[Ask for students to revise the sentence correctly, and write responses on board or transparency.]
“We also have to remember that,
4. When we compound a pronoun with something else, we don't want to change its form. Following this rule carefully often creates something that doesn't sound good.”
“You would write, ‘This
money is for me,’ so when someone else becomes involved, don't write, ‘This
money is for Fred and
[Write the following sentences on the board and wait for response.]
· This money is for him and me.
· This arrangement is between Fred and him.
“Those are both good sentences.”