Speak Good English: Get it correct

BY: Junior Graphic

Last week, we looked at two ways in which some people form incorrect sentences and present them as correct.

We looked at the use of pronouns in such a way that we end up with ambiguous sentences; that is, sentences that can have two or more meanings, as in:

Kofi met Sam and he gave the book to him.
We also looked at the tendency to use idiomatic expressions incorrectly by changing the words that constitute those idioms to suit popular or everyday usage, as in:

It is obvious the troublesome man has something up his sleeves (instead of .....has something up his sleeve).

Today,  we are going to take a closer look at how to avoid the formation of ambiguous sentences when we use pronouns.
We know what pronouns are:  words used in place of nouns in order not to repeat those nouns we have mentioned earlier in our discourse.

So, instead of saying or writing:
The man saw the woman the man owed and the man gave the woman the money the man owed the woman.
In, making use of pronouns, say or write:

The man saw the woman he owed and he gave her the money he owed her.

The use of the pronouns he, in place of the noun man, and her, in place of the noun woman, has prevented the repetitive use of man and woman in the sentence to make it easier to read and less tedious.

This use of pronouns alone makes them very useful when it comes to constructing sentences.

But the use of pronouns can also lead to ambiguity (as we have already seen), not knowing who or what a pronoun is referring to, lack of agreement between a pronoun and its antecedent noun, lack of agreement between a pronoun and its verb, etc.

Note that  every pronoun used must have  a noun that it refers to.  This noun that a pronoun refers to is known as the antecedent of that pronoun.

So in our example above, the antecedent of the pronoun he is man, while the antecedent of the pronoun her is woman.
A pronoun must agree with its antecedent in terms of gender, number and person,  otherwise that pronoun will be seen as incorrect.

(To be continued.)