Sunday, January 28, 2007

WHOdunit - II

The Edwards-Hamilton Family.
William Hogarth.

The kid is, I think, filling a mug from a small Greco-Roman style fountain. Dry work.
Father is playing with his flute. Mother knows the score.

Some rulz:

1. A pronoun must agree with its antecedent in number, person and gender. (The general rule.)

The employment record of an applicant is investigated before he is hired. ( Rule from a time when his or her was simply considered clumsy, rather than politically correct.)

a. A collective noun takes a singular pronoun when the group is thought of (one entity)and a plural pronoun when the individuals are thought of ( many entities). This one can be a real bugger sometimes.
The crew had its gear ready.
The crew discussed their parts in the forthcoming exercise.

b. Two or more singular antecedents joined by and require a plural pronoun.

War correspondent Smith and a soldier spent their first night in a foxhole.

c. Two or more singular antecedents joined by or or nor require singular pronouns.

Either Louie or Dewie will bring his cell phone to school.

d. Usually, each, every, either, neither, one, many a, a person, and compounds with body and one take singular pronouns. Antecedents like each, anyone, and everybody can be troublesome.

Each of the players reported that his section of the game was completed.

e. Every pronoun agrees with its antecedent in person.

My mother makes me eat spinach, because it puts iron in my system. (Not your system.)

f. Masculine pronouns are used in referring to most animals. (I wonder if a woman came up with this rule.) Neuter pronouns (it, its) may be used in speaking of insects or small animals.

2. Regarding relative pronouns -who refers chiefly to persons; which to animals or things; that, to persons, animals or things. That is also often used for essential clauses.


spyscribbler said...

"I wonder if a woman came up with this rule."

Hah! Isn't that the truth?

Erik Ivan James said...

Very interesting and informative, Bernita. I wonder why it is, though, that we use masculine pronouns for animals, and feminine for ships and airplanes? ~smiling~

anna said...

looks like we are getting into
the hard stuff. hah!
again as EIJames said
interesting and informative

Bernita said...

Hee, Spy.
Couldn't help it.

Thank you, Erik and Anna.
Maybe, Erik, because they are not as easy to control?

Anonymous said...

I'll just sit back and enjoy the comments.

Erik Ivan James said...

Yeah, spin-crash-burn!

Bernita said...

A liking for spectator sports, Steve?

And sometimes they may save your ass, Erik.
They usually work well when properly maintained and not taken for granted.

Gabriele C. said...

You can try German, our pronouns don't make any sense most of the time: der Hund (the dog, male) , die Katze (the cat, female), das Pferd (the horse, neuter). It's der Mond (moon) and die Sonne (sun) while French has la lune and le soleil. Some of our rivers are female (die Weser) others male (der Rhein) and that even goes for non-German rivers (die Themse / Thames, der Tiber) and we won't even start on things likes tables, chairs and book shelves. :)

Bernita said...

I do find the sun/moon switch rather unusual, Gabriele.
I guess it's all because language is organic. The "rules" came after. At one time there was a logic for the designations.

Anonymous said...

On occasion. There is always something interesting to observe.

raine said...

Useful information, Bernita.
I usually go on instinct and memory.
You've reminded me there ARE rules.

Bernita said...

Raine, I usually go by instinct and memory too.
Discovered my memory was faulty and my instinct fading.

Anonymous said...

I think I'm hyperventilating.

Holly Kennedy said...

Thanks for the post, Bernita.

Yet again another reminder of how much more I've left to learn (or memorize, depending how you look at it). I cringe with embarassment when I slam down a story and then reread it for technical accuracy!!

Bernita said...


I know the feeling, Holly.
Shudders R US.