4 Rules for Noun/Pronoun Agreement

AP English Language and Composition
We’re used to looking out for gender, number, and person agreement in GMAT pronouns. Here are four tips for better scores in pronoun sentence agreement test questions, which focus on four less commonly-tested pronoun rules.

1. Remember that collective nouns take singular verbs. Collective nouns refer to a “group.” Even though a “group” implies multiple people, the group itself is singular, and the collective noun will take a singular verb. Some of the collective nouns are obvious (a group, a plethora, a congress, etc.) and some are more unusual (a gaggle of geese, a murder of crows, etc).

2. Review your countable/uncountable nouns. Don’t mix up the usage of “number” and “amount.”

Those driving through the Australian outback must be careful to pack plenty of supplies, as there are certain stretches where the amount of fuel or amenities are minimal at best.

A          amount of fuel or amenities are

B          amount of fuel or amenities is

C          number of amenities and amount of fuel is

D          amount of fuel or amenities available is

E          number of amenities and amount of fuel available are

The correct answer is E.  “Number” is used with words that are countable (such as “amenities”); “Amount” is used with words that are “non-countable” or that exist in lump sums (such as ‘ink’ or ‘milk’).

3. Use who and whom to refer to people. “Who” is the subjective case pronoun used to refer to people, while “whom” is the objective case pronoun.

She spoke to whom?

The man who is giving the speech is my husband.

The girl with whom I work is named Cynthia.

“Who” is used to replace the subject, such as “the man” in our example sentence. To figure out whether to use who or whom in a sentence, rephrase it as a question.

Lisa, (who or whom?) loves ice cream, ate the entire gallon!

Ask yourself: Who or whom likes ice cream? The answer: Lisa. Since “Lisa” is the subject of the sentence, it must be replaced with the subjective case, who.

Lisa, who loves ice cream, ate the entire gallon!

If we’d answered the question with an objective pronoun, then whom would have been correct.

With (who or whom?) do you like to go shopping?

Since this sentence is already a question, all we have to do is provide a logical answer: With you. Although you can be used as both a subject and an object, because of the preposition “with” in front of it, we know the objective case is needed. So the correct sentence should say: With whom do you like to go shopping?

4. Use the relative pronouns which and that to refer to inanimate objects. Which is often used to introduce a subordinate clause and is set off by commas from the rest of the sentence; check out the second sentence of this article for an example. That is used within the body of the sentence.

The GMAT, which I am taking next month, is going to be so easy!

The GMAT that I took last year was harder than I thought.

Remember to never use which or that to refer to people, only to things.