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Shifts in Number and Person. NEC FACET Center. PART 1. Shifts in Person. What is “person”?. In English grammar, the term “person” refers to a classification system for pronouns. Pronouns are common words we use to take the place of nouns ( I , you , he , she , it , we , they , etc.).

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Shifts in Number and Person

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Shifts in number and person l.jpg

Shifts in Numberand Person

NEC FACET Center


Part 1 l.jpg

PART 1

Shifts in Person


What is person l.jpg

What is “person”?

  • In English grammar, the term “person” refers to a classification system for pronouns.

  • Pronouns are common words we use to take the place of nouns (I, you, he, she, it, we, they, etc.)


How do we classify pronouns l.jpg

How do we classify pronouns?

  • When speaking of these pronouns, we can divide them into groups in two ways:

    • according to whether they are singular or plural--one or more than one.

    • according to whether they are first person, second person, or third person.


Classification of pronouns l.jpg

Classification of Pronouns

,

mine

, ours

,

,

yours

yours

,

theirs


Recognizing 1 st person l.jpg

Recognizing 1st Person

Ithink I will

start a new

company. I

want some-

thing that is

all mine!

  • Writers or speakers who use first person speak directly about themselves by using the words I, me, my, mine.


Recognizing 1 st person7 l.jpg

Recognizing 1st Person

We could start our own company. Then we could have something that is truly ours.

  • Writers or speakers who use first person speak directly about them-selves by using the words I, me, my, mine orthe plural pronouns we, us, our, ours.

  • Notice that the speaker is still talking about himself even though he is now including someone else.


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Recognizing 2nd Person

You could start your own company. Then you could have something that is truly yours.

  • Writers or speakers who use second person are not speaking about them- selves.

  • They are writing or speaking directly to someone else.


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Recognizing 3rd Person

Sandra should start her own business.

  • Writers or speakers who use third person are neither speaking about themselves nor directly to someone else.

  • They are writing or speaking about someone or something else by using words such as he, him, she, her, it, its.


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What is a shift in person?

A shift in person refers to a mistaken change

in person within a sentence or group of

related sentences.


Example of a shift in person l.jpg

Example of a Shift in Person

  • When people get angry, we sometimes say things you would not say when calm.

  • Do you recognize the problems?


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Example of a Shift in Person

  • When people get angry, we sometimes say things you would not say when calm.

  • people = 3rd person

  • we = 1st person

  • you = 2nd person


Revised sentence l.jpg

Revised Sentence

  • When people get angry, they sometimes say things they would not say when calm.

  • people = 3rd person

  • they = 3rd person


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Another Shift in Person

  • On reaching the campsite, one must be upset to discover you must walk another mile for fresh drinking water.

  • Can you spot the problem?


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Another Shift in Person

  • On reaching the campsite, one must be upset to discover you must walk another mile for fresh drinking water.

  • one = 3rd person; you = 2nd person

  • How can you revise it?


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Revised Sentence

  • On reaching the campsite, one must be upset to discover one must walk another mile for fresh drinking water.

  • On reaching the campsite, one must be upset to discover he or she must walk another mile for fresh drinking water.

  • On reaching the campsite, you must be upset to discover you must walk another mile for fresh drinking water.


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Another Shift in Person

  • Nick, Lisa, and I took a close look at the money, and you could see that it was fake.

  • How would you correct this sentence?


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Revised Sentence

  • Nick, Lisa, and I took a close look at the money, and we could see that it was fake.

  • Change the 2nd person you to first person plural we. Notice that the subject (Nick, Lisa, and I)is first person plural.


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PART 2

Shifts in Number


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Pronoun Number

  • You may remember from the pronoun chart that some pronouns are singular and others plural.

One

More than one


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Singular and Plural Pronouns

Singular: I, me, my,

mine, she, her, hers

(orhe, him, his when

referring to a man

or a boy )

Plural: we, us, our, ours,

they, them, their, theirs

Singular:

it, its


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Special Note

Would you

like to use my

phone?

  • Depending on whether one is writing or speaking to an individual or a group, second person pronouns (including you, your, yours)can be either singular or plural.


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Choosing the Right Pronoun

  • Just as you select pronouns based on the correct “person,” you must also select them based on “number.”

  • Only two types of number exist:

    • singular

    • plural


What is a shift in number l.jpg

What is a shift in number?

  • Changing from singular to plural or from plural to singular when referring to the same person or thing creates a shift in number.


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Singular

or

plural?

How do I know if I am shifting number?

  • First, you must recognize the word serving as the “antecedent” for the pronoun.

  • Then you must match the “number” of the pronoun to the “number” of the antecedent.


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What is an antecedent?

  • Although this rule may sound difficult, it is actually quite simple.

  • The antecedent is the word that the pronoun refers to--in other words, the word the pronoun is renaming.


Example l.jpg

Example

  • The car looked brand new although it was actually sixty years old.

  • Pronoun: it (singular)

  • Antecedent: car (singular)


Another example l.jpg

Another Example

  • These students attend college during the day, and they work in a restaurant at night.

  • Pronoun?

  • Antecedent?


Another example29 l.jpg

Another Example

  • These students attend college during the day, and they work in a restaurant at night.

  • Pronoun? they (plural)

  • Antecedent? students (plural)


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A Final Example

  • The manager was almost run down as shoppers hurried past him toward the meat department.

  • Pronoun?

  • Antecedent?


A final example31 l.jpg

A Final Example

  • The manager was almost run down as shoppers hurried past him toward the meat department.

  • Pronoun? him (singular)

  • Antecedent? manager (singular)


Example of a shift in number l.jpg

Example of a Shift in Number

  • Classes have been cancelled for today, but it will resume tomorrow.

  • Pronoun?

  • Antecedent?


Example of a shift in number33 l.jpg

Example of a Shift in Number

  • Classes have been cancelled for today, but it will resume tomorrow.

  • Pronoun? it (singular)

  • Antecedent? Classes (plural)

  • When pronoun and antecedent don’t match in number, you have a “shiftin number.”


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Revising the Shift

  • Classes have been cancelled for today, but they will resume tomorrow.

  • Pronoun? they (plural)

  • Antecedent? Classes (plural)


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A Common Cause of Shifts in Number

  • Shifts in number often result when a writer tries to avoid “gender bias.”

  • “Gender bias” refers to discrimination against either sex--male or female.


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Example of Number Shift to Avoid Gender Bias

  • An employee who wishes to take time off during the holidays should submit their request by Friday.

  • their (plural)

  • employee (singular)


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The Result

  • Although the writer correctly included both sexes, the result was a pronoun error.

  • The writer could have avoided the error in either of two ways:


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Revision # 1

  • An employee who wishes to take time off during the holidays should submit his or her request by Friday.

  • Both pronoun and antecedent are now singular.


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Caution

  • This solution works well as long as the writer does not need to use “his or her” repeatedly.

  • Such repetition would result in awkward sentences.

his or her

his or her

his or her

his or her

his or her

his or her


Revision 2 l.jpg

Revision # 2

  • Employees who wish to take time off during the holidays should submit their requests by Friday.

  • By using a plural pronoun and plural antecedent, writers can avoid both the pronoun error and the potentially awkward sentences using “his or her.”


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Can you spot the shift in number?

  • Both snakes hissed, and one flicked their tongue.


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The Shift in Number Revised

  • Both snakes hissed, and one flicked its tongue.


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Collective Nouns

  • Collective nouns represent a group and are usually considered singular.

class

society

faculty

jury

school

committee

tribe

government

team

company

flock


Example44 l.jpg

Example

  • Incorrect: The jury deliberated two weeks before giving their verdict to the judge.

  • Correct: Thejury deliberated two weeks before givingitsverdict to the judge.

  • The jury acts as a single unit.


Another example45 l.jpg

Another Example

  • Incorrect: A family offers their members both physical and emotional support.

  • Correct: A family offers its members both physical and emotional support.


A third example l.jpg

A Third Example

  • Incorrect:The orchestra gave their summer concert on the Fourth of July.

  • Correct:The orchestra gaveits summer concert on the Fourth of July.


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Think of an appropriate pronoun.

  • The committee will soon make _____ recommendations.

  • The team will play for the championship if ____ can win one more game.

  • After touring Gilcrease Museum, the class loaded into _____ school bus.


The answers l.jpg

The Answers

  • The committee will soon make its recommendations.

  • The team will play for the championship if it can win one more game.

  • After touring Gilcrease Museum, the class loaded into its school bus.


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Indefinite Pronouns

  • When writing, you must also pay particular attention to indefinite pronouns, such as the following, when they serve as antecedents:

    • anyone, everyone, someone, no one

    • anybody, everybody, somebody, nobody

    • either, neither

    • each of, either of, neither of, one of, every one of,


Singular or plural l.jpg

Singular or Plural?

  • Indefinite pronouns are normally considered singular.

  • Therefore, when they serve as antecedents, the pronouns that follow them should be singular.


Example51 l.jpg

Example

  • Incorrect: Neither of the boys has opened their gift yet.

  • Correct: Neither of the boys has opened his gift yet.

  • In this sentence, we are looking at the boys as individuals.

  • Each boy has received his own gift and will open it himself.


Another example52 l.jpg

Another Example

  • Incorrect: Everyone has their own opinion.

  • Correct:Everyonehas his or her own opinion.

  • Again, each person is looked at as an individual.


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Think of an appropriate pronoun.

  • Someone left _____ purse in the shopping cart.

  • Each of the houses has a hot tub in _________ master bathroom.

  • Everyone is entitled to ______ own opinion.

  • Neither of the actors had memorized ____ lines yet.


The answers54 l.jpg

The Answers

  • Someone leftherpurse in the shopping cart.

  • Each of the houses has a hot tub in itsmaster bathroom.

  • Everyone is entitled tohis or her own opinion.

  • Neither of the actors had memorized hislines yet.


Remember l.jpg

REMEMBER--

  • Pronouns and antecedents must agree in person and number.


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Some of the Rules

  • Use 1stperson pronouns when writing or speaking about yourself.

  • Use 2nd person pronouns when talking or speaking directly to another person or group.

  • Use 3rd person when talking or speaking about another person, object, or group.


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The Remaining Rules

  • Use singular pronouns when the antecedent is singular. (Remember that indefinite pronouns and collective nouns are nearly always singular.)

  • Use plural pronouns when the antecedent is plural.


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