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Pronoun agreement | Worked example

Watch David work through a pronoun agreement question from the Praxis Core Writing test.

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Video transcript

- "Despite its former popularity "among record producers and session musicians, "scarcely any marimbas can be heard "in American pop music today." So this is an error ID question. One of these five underlines either contains an error or there is no error. So let's start with its. Its is a pronoun and we wanna just see what that pronoun's antecedent is. So let's just look for other nouns in the sentence. So it's not gonna be record producers or session musicians because whatever it is is popular among record producers and session musicians. So those aren't the antecedent. Which leaves us with marimbas and American pop music. But since this is part of a prepositional phrase, it's not an essential part of the sentence which means that the antecedent to its is marimbas which is a plural noun. A marimba is kinda like a xylophone, and this is a singular pronoun which means that its is almost certainly our answer, but I wanna just go through the other options and see what else is left and see if there's anything that seems tempting. So option B is among record producers. So this is testing our knowledge of whether or not the preposition among is being used appropriately. And among instead of between is something that we would use to show a distribution among groups of larger than two. So it's not that there's one record producer and one session musician, this is a group of many as opposed to two people in which case we would use between. And now that we've eliminated this option, we can also cross off this entire prepositional phrase. So "despite its' former popularity, "scarcely any marimbas can be heard." And we've also crossed out this last bit here. So with option C the comma, we're trying to decide whether or not it is being used appropriately to divide between this descriptive aside and the rest of the sentence. Right? "Despite its' former popularity comma "scarcely any marimbas can be heard." So this entire descriptive aside is modifying marimbas, and in that case a comma is appropriate. Now scarcely any. This is one to be very careful about because although scarcely any is correct usage, it's awfully similar to the incorrect scarcely no which is an ungrammatical double negative. And so when you see a word like scarcely or barely or hardly make sure it's followed by a word like any and not a word like no. And so with those three options knocked out, it's either that its is incorrect or there is no error, but we know that we have this plural/singular mismatch, right? And that means that the pronoun isn't exhibiting proper agreement with its antecedent. And so that means that its is our error. We do not have a no error. When you encounter underlined pronouns like this, the thing to do is hunt for the antecedent and then ask yourself, does it match? Does it match in number? Does it match in gender? And so in this case, it doesn't match in number, right? Its is singular. Marimbas is plural. And if the antecedent makes sense and if it matches, then move on to the next underline. If it doesn't match, that's your error.