Antecedents are nouns or noun phrases that refer to the pronoun. If you are eager to learn them or know more about them, read this.

What Are Antecedents in English?

What Are Antecedents?

An antecedent is a word, phrase, or clause that is replaced by a pronoun in a sentence. The antecedent is the noun or noun phrase that the pronoun refers to and replaces.

Antecedents: Types

'Antecedents' can be singular or plural, common or proper, and countable or uncountable nouns. In other words, any category that exists for a noun applies to an antecedent as well. For example:

Marco went through his stuff and found a picture of himself when he was young.

Here, 'himself' refers back to 'Marco'; thus, Marco is the antecedent.

The birds were flying over the clear sky. They seemed happy.

Agreement of Antecedents and Pronouns

The pronoun must agree with its antecedent in gender, number, and person. So keep in mind that you cannot use a singular pronoun with a plural antecedent or vice versa. Check out the examples:

Maria was a mess; I called her yesterday.

The ants were trying to enter the ant hill. They all managed to do so.

'cat' as the antecedent

What about Possessive Determiners?

When using antecedents in a sentence, the possessive determiners that refer to the antecedents must agree with them as well. For example:

The boy used his phone to make a call.

Harry and I booked our room two months ago.

Vague Pronouns with No Antecedents

When using pronouns in a sentence, it is important to avoid using them vaguely without a clear antecedent. However, in some cases, the antecedent may be absent, but the context of the sentence can help the reader or listener understand what the pronoun is referring to. Look at the examples.

It is blue.

Call them.

Here, if we did not specify who 'them' is referring to in advance, the listener gets confused.

Antecedents with Different Types of Pronouns

Now let us look at different types of pronouns and their antecedents with some examples:

I have talked to Jimmy. He wants to travel around the world.

The chair was old, but it still looked good.

The dog broke the glass itself.

Alex opened the email himself. I did not know there was an email at all.

Where is the bag that I bought yesterday?

Hanna is the girl whom we met yesterday.

Sara and Sam love each other.

Hanna! Look at the dog next to you.

Antecedents and Demonstrative Pronouns

A demonstrative pronoun can refer back to a noun or noun phrase which is the antecedent. Check out the examples for more clarification.

He drives very well, I like to be like that.

Maria is rude I can not bear this.


Antecedents are words that refer back to the pronoun. Remember, antecedents can be nouns or noun phrases. Antecedents and pronouns have to agree on number, gender, case, etc.


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