Pronoun agreement can be a tricky point of grammar. If you’re wondering how to make your pronouns agree with your favorite antecedents, look no further. In this edition of Celebrity Grammar, we explore pronoun agreement errors in the words of Kanye West!
Lets take a look at a tweet from Kanye with a pronoun agreement error. See if you can spot it!
everyone can say anything they want about me but they could never say that I didn't care.
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) March 13, 2016
If you don’t see the error, don’t fear! By the end of this post you’ll able to spot it with ease.
First let’s discuss what pronoun agreement is all about. Pronoun agreement is the idea that pronouns must agree with the words that they reference (antecedents).
Pronouns are words like “them”, “it” “he”, and “she”– words that reference other words. They come in handy for sentences such as “Kanye took Kanye’s dog for a walk in front of Kanye’s house”– obviously if you spoke without pronouns you might raise some eyebrows. When we replace words with pronouns, we have to make sure they match in terms of singular and plural. Here’s an example of a sentence with a pronoun agreement error in it.
“Kanye designs clothing and sees them as an expression of his unparalleled artistic genius.”
The word “clothing” is what we call a mass noun . The word clothing can stand for “a whole lot of clothing” but is technically a singular word. “Them” is a plural noun– we need a singular pronoun to make the sentence correct.
“Kanye designs clothing and sees it as an expression of his unparalleled artistic genius.”
That might be easy enough. But there’s one instance in the world of pronoun agreement that can cause a lot of trouble. They are what I call the “Ones and the Bodies.”
Ones and the Bodies
Even though they may sound plural, these words are actually singular:
Lets look back at Kanye’s tweet:
Here Kanye is using the word “everyone.” Lets pinpoint the pronoun he uses: “they.” “They” is not singular which makes his tweet grammatically incorrect. How do we fix this? We have two options:
Leave “everyone” and turn “they” into “he or she” —
“Everyone can say anything he or she wants about me, but he or she could never say that I didn’t care.”
This solution, though, is a mouthful and sounds overly nerdy. If you’re looking to keep your cool reputation intact and be a grammar ninja, you may be better off with the second option:
Rephrase the entire sentence to eliminate the “Ones and the Bodies.”
“People can say anything they want about me, but they could never say that I didn’t care.”
“People” is plural and the pronoun “they” is plural — now we have a grammatically correct sentence.
Beware of the “Ones and the Bodies”— remember they are singular so make sure your accompanying pronoun is also singular if you choose to use these words!