Pronouns must avoid being vague in what they reference: There are two common problems with vague pronouns. But when he finally turned to look at her, she was peering out the small patch of windshield that had defogged. "The school board had to decide whether to spend $186,000 to sponsor permanent residency for the foreign teachers or let them go back to the Philippines and start the search all over again. 1. Dr. Richard Nordquist is professor emeritus of rhetoric and English at Georgia Southern University and the author of several university-level grammar and composition textbooks. A pronoun may point back to other items in a text (anaphoric reference) or—less commonly—point ahead to a later part of the text (cataphoric reference). After the teacher gave Susan the paper, she walked away angrily. Such errors, called FAULTY or VAGUE PRONOUN REFERENCE, can confuse readers and obscure the intended meaning. It, this, and which are pronouns, and they need to refer back to a specific noun, not to the whole idea of a previous statement. 1. Avoiding Vague and Ambiguous Pronoun References VOCABULARY Antecedent The noun which a pronoun substitutes for or refers to. A pronoun may point back to other items in a text (anaphoric reference) or—less commonly—point ahead to a later part of the text (cataphoric reference). In general, a pronoun should refer to a particular word in the preceding sentence. One occurs when there is more than one noun that the pronoun could refer to. 'I think it's going to clear,' she said. Example: Vague: The profits from the investment would be large, which I realized almost immediately. The pronoun it does not have a clear noun antecedent. A vague pronoun reference might include words such as it, that, this, and which, and can leave the reader wondering what or to whom the pronoun refers. A_____ When Pearl Buck was forty, her novel The Good Earth won the Pulitzer Prize. In traditional grammar, a construction in which a pronoun doesn't refer clearly and unambiguously to its antecedent is called faulty pronoun reference. The pronoun reference is faulty here because the pronoun it has two antecedents. Exercise on Vague or Unclear Pronoun Reference In the following pairs of sentences, one sentence is correct, and the other sentence contains a vague or ambiguous pronoun reference. In traditional grammar, a construction in which a pronoun doesn't refer clearly and unambiguously to its antecedent is called faulty pronoun reference. Vague Pronoun Reference A pronoun without a specific antecedent. "They decided to do, "If a baby does not thrive on raw milk, boil, "John Roberts once defended a serial murderer before he became chief justice of the Supreme Court.". "He started the car, put the heater on defrost and waited for the windshield to clear, feeling Marguerite's eyes on him. "An engaged woman is always more agreeable than a disengaged. Rewrite the sentence so that it is clear what the pronoun is referring to. In English grammar, reference is the relationship between a grammatical unit (usually a pronoun) that refers to (or stands in for) another grammatical unit (usually a noun or noun phrase). "As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality. As a result, the reader cannot know for sure whether Kara sold the disk or the cabinet. That problem is vague pronoun reference. 2. By using ThoughtCo, you accept our, Definiton and Examples of Faulty Pronoun Reference, Definition and Examples of Agreement in English Grammar, Personal Pronoun Definition and Examples in English, Definition and Examples of Pronoun Agreement, 100 Key Terms Used in the Study of Grammar, Definition and Examples of Referents in English Grammar, Definition and Examples of "Exophora" in English Grammar, Editing Exercise: Correcting Errors in Pronoun Reference, Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia, M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester, B.A., English, State University of New York. Mark the CORRECT sentence. Jane promised to clean up her room, which her mother didn’t believe for a minute. ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. 1. Improve your language arts knowledge with free questions in "Identify vague pronoun references" and thousands of other language arts skills. In these three sentences, the pronouns refer to the idea that Harry was always late, but they can’t logically refer back to … The noun or noun phrase that a pronoun refers to is called the antecedent. The other occurs when a pronoun used refers to a word that is implied but not specifically stated. Ambiguous Pronoun Reference A pronoun with multiple, possible antecedents. Vague Pronouns Each sentence below contains a vague pronoun reference. b) Supply a specific antecedent for the pronoun. A pronoun is a part of speech that can replace a noun; its antecedent is the person, place, or thing to which the pronoun refers.

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