English 101 Help > Skills Test: Sample Questions and Answers -- Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

Here are some samples of the types of questions (with the answers) that may be expected on the skills test.

Circle the correct pronoun(s) in the following.

1.  CBS has cancelled all of its/it's/its'/their/there/thier regular programs so that it/they can cover the election returns.
Answers:  its and it.  CBS is the antecedent of both pronouns, and CBS is "it" (singular), not "they" (plural) or "their" (plural possessive).  Clue:  The verb that follows CBS is the singular has; if CBS were "they," we would write "CBS have."  In the first set, it's is incorrect because it means "it is";  its' is incorrect because no such word exists; thier is incorrect because it is misspelled; there is incorrect because it is not a pronoun.

2.  Every doctor is obligated to treat their/his or her patients with respect.
Answer:  his or herThe pronoun refers to doctor, singular (note the singular verb is).  Although "every doctor" has the sense of "all doctors," the phrase "every doctor" is grammatically singular.  If we wish to use their, we must rephrase:  "All doctors are obligated to treat their patients with respect.

3.  As a person grows up, they/he or she must accept responsibilities.
Answer:  he or sheThe antecedent (a person) is singular.  The pronoun must match.  (We could rephrase in the plural:  "As people grow up, they must accept responsibilities.")

4.  The jury has reached their/its verdict.
Answer:  its.  The antecedent (jury) is a collective noun, which can be either singular or plural, depending on context.  However, its (singular) is correct here for two reasons:  (1) The singular verb (has) treats jury as a singular noun.  "The jury has reached their verdict" would not be consistent.  (2) The jury is acting as a unit when it reports the verdict.  If the jury members were acting separately, the situation would be different, as in, "The jury are arguing among themselves."

5.  Someone who doesn't install an antivirus program on their/his or her computer is asking for trouble.
Answer:  his or herThe pronoun refers to someone, which is singular.  If his or her seems awkward, recast the entire sentence in plural form:  "People who don't install an antivirus program on their computers are asking for trouble."

If you're still confused, go back to Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement: Basics.

COMING SOON – Pronoun Case: Basics; Questions and Answers About Pronoun Case.