As with a poor stand-in can damage a scene in a blockbuster film, an unclear antecedent have the right to destroy a sentence. Confused? Let me explain.

You are watching: If you write a sentence with an unclear antecedent, it means you used

Being a movie star involves many downtime. (At leastern that’s what Idris Elba tells me on our monthly Zoom contact.) You’re stuck spending hours in the makeup chair or resisting the craft solutions table while you wait for your call time.

You don’t have to waste time via scene set-up, though. That’s your stand-in’s task. While Idris perfects his DJ abilities, his stand-in helps the crew perfect a scene’s lighting and also blocking. All of this convenience rests on a straightforward premise: Idris Elba’s stand-in requirements to physically complement Idris Elba. When a stand-in and a star aren’t in sync, the lighting director can’t collection the scene. Similarly, when a pronoun and its antecedent aren’t clear, your readers can’t understand what you’re talking around. And, much prefer “Cats,” nobody wants that.

Sorry, Idris.



Unclear Antecedent Definition

In a sentence, the antecedent is the noun that’s represented by a details pronoun. An unclear antecedent is what happens as soon as you can’t tell which noun a pronoun is intended to stand also in for.


Um, Remind Me What Pronouns Do Again?

Pronouns stand in for nouns so that our composing doesn’t sound repeated and robotic. For example, rather of composing somepoint like this:

Brad asked me to hold Brad’s funnel cake while Brad rides the Barf-O-Tron 5000 aacquire.

You deserve to swap in some pronouns prefer this:

Brad asked me to hold his funnel cake while he rides the Barf-O-Tron 5000 for the third time in a row.

See? Much much better. And in this powder sugar-spanned instance, the antecedent is Brad. This is a clear antecedent because there’s no question who the funnel cake belongs to or who’s going to ride the Barf-O-Tron aacquire. It’s Brad. And he’s probably going to regret it.


What Is an Unclear Antecedent?

If you compose a sentence with an unclear antecedent, the reader can’t tell what noun a given pronoun is standing in for. Predictably, this causes confusion. Check it out:

Neither Brad nor Pablo have actually ever before thrvery own up after riding the Barf-O-Tron, or at leastern that’s what he told me.

In this case, the antecedent is unclear bereason we can’t be completely certain whether that “he” is a stand-in for Brad or a stand-in for Pablo. Maybe Brad said it before scampering ago right into line for the ride. Maybe Pablo shelp it bereason, as Brad’s loyal wingman, he’s trying to impush the speaker in the sentence. Either method, we can’t tell bereason the antecedent is unclear.



Unclear Antecedent Examples

Tright here are most points that have the right to go wrong in between an antecedent and also its pronoun, and also if you’re going to thrive as a writer, you should understand exactly how to find worries in your occupational. Lace up your grammar boots, and also let’s check out the 2 most prevalent causes of antecedent confusion.


1. Tbelow Are Too Many Possible Antecedents

More often than not, an unclear antecedent is the outcome of tbelow being more than one feasible antecedent for a pronoun (or series of pronouns). Our funnel cake example over was an example of that. Let’s refresh:

Neither Brad nor Pablo have actually ever before thrvery own up after riding the Barf-O-Tron, or at least that’s what he told me.

Because “he” might reasonably mean Brad or Pablo, the pronoun’s antecedent isn’t clear. Let’s inspect a couple of more examples of unclear antecedents — and also how to clear points up.

Example 1

Unclear: My boss gave the angry customer her crmodify card.Clear: My boss gave the angry customer’s crmodify card ago to her.

Example 2

Unclear: Zack and his dad watched his brand-new kite drift off throughout the river towards New Jersey.Clear: Zack and also his dad watched Zack’s brand-brand-new kite drift off across the river towards New Jersey.

Example 3

Unclear: We offered to hide a spare key under the Christmas wreath, but it was stolen.Clear: We supplied to hide a spare essential under the Christmas wreath, but the wreath was stolen.

It’s not simply individual pronouns such as “he,” “she,” or “it” that deserve to reason confusion. Demonstrative pronouns — this and thatthese and those — can also be to blame for an unclear antecedent. Check it out:

Example 4

Unclear: When our waitress dropped my linguine on the floor and kicked it throughout the floor like a tumbleweed, that’s as soon as I knew I wasn’t going to leave a guideline.Clear: When our waitress kicked my spilled linguine across the floor choose a tumbleweed, that’s once I knew I wasn’t going to leave a reminder.

Example 5

Unclear: My parents are gaining divorced, and my mom’s relocating in via my trombone teacher? This is absolutely insane!Clear: It is absolutely insane that my mom’s divorcing my dad bereason she’s in love through my trombone teacher.


2. The Writer Doesn’t Include the Antecedent … But Assumes That You Kcurrently What It Is

Sometimes, an unclear antecedent happens bereason the writer literally doesn’t put it in the sentence. That seems like a pretty boneheaded move on his or her part, doesn’t it?

Maybe not.

Often, authors use a pronoun without a clearly proclaimed antecedent to achieve a certain result. In this exceptionally blog, for example, you may’ve noticed that I periodically describe a “we.”

Actually, I hope you didn’t really alert it, and also that’s because I usage “we” to form an instant link in between me and also you, my dear What’s-Your-Face. Writers regularly leave out antecedents on purpose choose this, and also it’s a completely legit tactic.

That sassist, purposely leaving out the antecedent is a writing tool to use just as soon as you’re entirely confident that the reader will recognize that or what that pronoun describes. For example, I’m confident about utilizing “we” throughout this post because I recognize that you’ll understand also “we” likely implies you and me, or probably even “we as civilization who write.” I’m equally confident that you won’t think “we” can intend “we Midwestern women,” “we former cast members of ‘The West Wing,’” or “all of us 1992 Seattle SuperSonics.”

Some pronouns are even more likely than others to cause an unclear antecedent. Those repeat offenders are:


Let’s take a look at four examples of unclear antecedents that are the result of an unproclaimed antecedent. We’ll feastern our eyes upon a potential fix for each one, too:

Example 1

Unclear: I’m sorry, ma’am, but we don’t permit shoppers to drive riding lawnmowers throughout our store.Clear: I’m sorry, ma’am, but the owner doesn’t allow shoppers to drive riding lawnmowers throughout her keep.

Example 2

Unclear: If you angrily hurl your lawn chair onto the field at your son’s tee-round game, they will certainly more than likely offer you a life time ban.Clear: If you angrily hurl your lawn chair onto the field at your son’s tee-sphere game, the Bloomington Parks Department will certainly probably provide you a lifetime ban.

Example 3

Unclear: On TV, it sassist that Abraham Lincoln was actually a cyborg.Clear: On TV, Mitch Pimples, a background professor at Oliver Platt University, said that Abraham Lincoln was actually a cyborg.

Example 4

Unclear: At 9 p.m., you need to leave the beer garden.Clear: After 9 p.m., guests under the age of 21 have to leave the beer garden.

See more: The Following Figure Is An Example Of:, The Following Figure Is An Example For ______



Clearing Up an Unclear Antecedent One Last Time

Much choose a misinserted modifier, an unclear antecedent can yield undeliberately hilarious outcomes. It deserve to additionally reason straight-up confusion. Keep your antecedents crystal clear by making sure your sentences aren’t loaded via too many antecedents or, conversely, totally devoid of an antecedent, and you’ll be well on your way, What’s-Your-Face.

Got any type of other tips for keeping pronouns and also their antecedents clear, cshed and also connected? Make prefer Idris Elba and drop those (grammar) beats in the comments below!