The Relative Pronoun derives its meaning from the Noun word or phrase which precedes it, known as the Antecedent. Hence, for all practical purposes it must conform to the person, number and gender of the antecedent. The number and person of the Relative Pronoun is reflected through the verb which is used , therefore, if the Noun word which forms the Antecedent is singular, it makes sense that the verb that follows the Relative Pronoun must accordingly be singular and matching in gender.
1. The boys who were regular, performed remarkably well. (Since the antecedent ‘boys’ is third person plural, accordingly the verb used ‘were’ is also third person plural)
2. I, who am the Captain, will show you the way. (The Antecedent is ‘I’, therefore the verb is first person singular ‘am’.
3. The girl, who was ever so graceful, stood first in the pageant. (The Antecedent ‘girl’ is third person Singular, hence the verb that follows ‘was’ is also third person singular).
4. They, who lead by example are never short of followers. (The Antecedent ‘they’ is third person plural, hence the verb are is also third person plural.
5. It is who I am. (I being the Antecedent is first person singular, hence the verb ‘am too follows the same trend.)
· To make matters simple, it is always advisable to place the Relative Pronoun, close to the Antecedent.
Example: (The first one is always preferred)
6. The girl, who showed such exemplary courage, is the daughter of my childhood friend, Sita.
The girl, who is the daughter of my childhood friend, Sita, showed exemplary courage.
· The scope for error creeps in the fact that many a times the Pronoun does not immediately follow the antecedent and as such we have a string of words in between , which needs to be overlooked in our quest to form grammatically correct sentence structures.
(i) Dennis, one of the class members, who has chosen Thomas Jefferson as his topics, is absent.( The verb ‘has’ is Singular since it takes its meaning from the antecedent Dennis, overlooking what comes after that.)
Special cases of Pronoun Antecedent Agreement
1. If the subjects are joined by ‘and’ the pronoun needs to be plural but if it is or/nor, then the pronoun agrees with the Subject closest to it.
(i) Either the doctor or nurses who attended to her, failed in their job.
(ii) Both Mary and Suze, who are otherwise brilliant, failed to live up to their expectations on the final day.
(iii) Neither he nor his friend who was there, helped the accident victim.
2. If the Pronoun is referring to a unit like a country or a team, then the pronoun needs to take a Singular verb.
(i)The country, whichstands united in this hour of grief, shall hence take a tough stand on terrorism.
(ii) The team, which always puts in its best, couldn’t accept the final outcome, stoically.
3. Some words like news / measles may sound plural nut are actually singular and hence take singular verbs.
(i) The news, which has shook the nation, send ripples amidst its citizens across the globe
(ii) Measles, which was thought to be under control, has spread again in recent years.