The “pronoun” was a 4th grade vocabulary lesson that you never thought you would need to worry about…until now. He, she, it, you, us, they, them, etc. – these are pronouns. Pronouns are the number one mistake on the SAT and are also a real problem on the ACT. Since pronouns are in all the wrong places with the wrong words, I always tell students to think of pronouns as promiscuous.
Promiscuous means characterized by or involving indiscriminate mingling or association.
A pronoun must take the place of one, and only one, specific noun! If a pronoun is going with all sorts of nouns, it is a promiscuous pronoun, and this is a very bad thing. If you can’t tell what noun the pronoun is taking the place of- another bad thing. And finally, if the pronoun des not agree with the noun- yet another bad thing!
So, since being promiscuous is not a good thing, pronouns, too, are not a good thing on these exams. Therefore, always check pronouns twice in the grammar section and make sure they are correct! (Always make sure to especially double check “it”. “It” is the most promiscuous pronoun on both tests!)
Want some practice? Try this exercise:
Choose the best way to phrase the underlined portion of the sentence. If the original version is the best phrasing, choose choice A.
Laurie, Jimmy, and Tom were running home from school yesterday when he tripped and fell.
a) when he tripped and fell.
b) where it was Tom who tripped and fell.
c) when it was him who tripped and fell.
d) when Tom tripped and fell.
Answer: D. In the original sentence, who is “he” referring to? We don’t know, so “he” is promiscuous! Fix it by replacing “he” with “Tom”. Now the sentence is clear.