Relative Pronoun Agreement

As a copy editor, one of the most common grammatical errors that I come across is improper relative pronoun agreement. This is a mistake that can easily slip by writers and editors, but it can have a big impact on the clarity and effectiveness of your writing. In this article, I will explain what relative pronouns are, how they work, and give you some tips on how to make sure you are using them correctly.

Relative pronouns are words such as “who,” “whom,” “whose,” “that,” and “which” that are used to introduce a clause that gives additional information about a noun. For example, in the sentence “The woman who won the award was very talented,” “who” is the relative pronoun that is introducing the clause “who won the award.”

The key to proper relative pronoun agreement is to make sure that the relative pronoun agrees in number and gender with the noun it is replacing. For example, in the sentence “The students who studied hard passed the test,” “who” is plural to match “students.”

Another common mistake is using “that” instead of “who” when referring to a person. For example, it is incorrect to say “The man that I saw at the store” – it should be “The man who I saw at the store.”

It is also important to pay attention to the use of possessive relative pronouns such as “whose.” For example, in the sentence “The woman whose car was stolen reported it to the police,” “whose” is indicating possession by the woman. This is different from “who” or “whom,” which are used to refer to a person without indicating possession.

Finally, it is important to be consistent in your use of relative pronouns. If you are writing about a group of people, be sure to use “who” consistently throughout the piece rather than mixing it up with “that” or “which.”

In summary, using relative pronouns correctly is essential to effective writing. To avoid common mistakes in relative pronoun agreement, be sure to match the number and gender of the pronoun with the noun it is replacing, use “who” instead of “that” when referring to a person, pay attention to possessive relative pronouns, and be consistent in your use of relative pronouns throughout your writing. By following these tips, you can avoid common grammatical errors and ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and effective.

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