This article is published in the Tuesday issues of Deccan Chronicle .
Many of us are not clear about how to use the pronoun. But it is fairly simple, if you remember a few rules. Because a pronoun refers to an already-used noun or takes the place of that noun, you have to use the correct pronoun to make it clear which noun is being referred to.
If the pronoun takes the place of a singular noun, the pronoun must also be singular.
Incorrect usage: If a student crosses the road, they must check the traffic situation.
Correct usage: If a student crosses the road, he must check the traffic situation.
Words such as ‘each’, ‘anyone’, ‘neither’, ‘everybody’, ‘anybody’, ‘nobody’, ‘someone’, ‘a person’, etc are singular and will take a singular pronoun. You will not say —Neither of the boys brought their books to school. You will say —Neither of the boys brought his books to school. You will not say — Everybody should do their best in the exams. You will say — Everybody should do his or her best in the exams. If you find this rule difficult, it is better to use a plural noun so that you can use a plural pronoun as well — You must all do your best in the exams.’
Look at this example — Although the cloth fell on the floor it was not stained. Here you do not know what was stained the cloth or the floor. You should be specific about the noun — Although the cloth fell on the floor, the cloth was not stained.’
Remember the ‘same person’ rule. If you are writing in “first person” (I), don’t switch to the “second person” (you) or “third person” (he, she, they, it, etc.). Similarly, if you are using the “second person,” don’t switch to “first” or “third.”