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Parts of speech

Learn more about English parts of speech, such as prepositions and articles, to help you become a more confident writer.

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Agreement in number

Pronouns either replace or refer back to a noun. Accordingly, they must agree in number with the noun to which they refer or are replacing.

  • Use a singular pronoun to replace a singular noun
    • The cat climbed the tree but it stopped at the top branch.
      ("cat" is singular; "it" is also singular)
    • Remember that "everyone", "someone", "anyone", "each", "neither", "nobody", "someone", "a person", etc. are singular nouns; therefore, they require a singular pronoun unless a plural pronoun is being used as a gender-neutral singular pronoun
      • Everyone should buy their bus pass.
        ("Everyone" is singular; "their" is a gender-neutral singular pronoun)
  • Use a plural pronoun to replace a plural noun
    • The cats climbed the tree but they stopped at the top branch.
      ("cats" is plural; "they" is also plural)

For more information, please refer to The OWL at Purdue: Using Pronouns Clearly.

Agreement in person (point-of-view)

Be consistent with the point-of-view that you use in your writing and the pronouns you use to indicate your point-of-view.

There are three possible points-of-view:

  • First person: "I", "me", "my"
  • Second person: "You", "yours"
  • Third person: "he", "she", "they", "it", etc.

Don't switch your point-of-view mid-sentence. For example, "If a student hands in a late assignment, you will have marks deducted" (mixes the third-person "student" with the first-person "you"). The correct version is either, "If a student hands in a late assignment, the teacher will deduct marks from their grade", or "If you hand in a late assignment, the teacher will deduct marks from your grade".