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  1. marcusl
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    marcusl Member

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    Pronoun problem

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by marcusl, May 11, 2011.

    Hello there. I just have a question about pronouns I could use some help with. So, I've heard that pronouns always refer to the last noun mentioned. For example:

    * * *

    The cat ran across the bridge. It then climbed over a mountain.

    * * *

    In the above, "it" would be referring to the bridge, and not the cat. Is that correct? Because "bridge" is the first sentence's object, I thought this wouldn't be the case. As in, I thought pronouns refer to the subject of the previous sentence. It's quite confusing, and I could use some help with this. Thanks so much everyone. :)
     
  2. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    That reads as if the cat climbed over the mountain.

    Is that your intention?
     
  3. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, the "it" means that the subject stays the same between the two sentences. I can't find a rule in any of my grammar texts, but I suspect that the rule is something like if "it" is the subject then it refers to a previous subject and if it's an object then it refers to a previous object. So your sentence gives an example of when it's the subject. Consider "The cat chased the mouse. It caught it." The first "it", the subject, refers to the subject of the previous sentence, the cat, and the second "it", the object, refers to the object of the previous sentence, the mouse. I can't see that anybody would interpret both "it"s to refer to the last noun mentioned: the mouse didn't catch the mouse.
     
  4. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Consider also the laws of logic and of co-operative communication. In your example, it would be somewhat unlikely that the bridge would climb a mountain as oppose to the cat, and downright unco-operative (intentionally or not) of the speaker/author if that were their intention therefore. That aside, follow digitig's advice on pronoun use.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'cat' is the subject of the first sentence... 'it' is the subject of the following one, so it clearly refers only to the previous sentence's subject and not the object...
     
  6. marcusl
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    marcusl Member

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    Thanks for the reply everyone. It all makes sense now.
     

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