Antecedent Grammar: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know what antecedent grammar is? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on an antecedent, including its definition, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What is an antecedent?

According to Your Dictionary, an antecedent is an earlier clause, phrase, or word to which a pronoun, noun, or another word refers. When using a relative pronoun to replace an antecedent, make sure that your noun pronoun agreement remains intact when it comes to gender as well as the amount. Singular nouns or a noun phrase need a singular pronoun and plural nouns need a plural pronoun as the referent pronoun or personal pronoun. Sometimes, an indefinite pronoun is used as an antecedent; either singular indefinite pronouns or plural indefinite pronouns. The examples of indefinite pronouns include:

  •  anyone
  •  neither
  •  someone
  •  one
  •  anybody
  •  nobody
  •  everyone
  •  few
  •  many
  •  each
  •  something
  •  nothing
  •  everything
  •  somebody
  •  everybody
  •  no one
  •  anything
  •  several
  •  either
  •  both

These can be modified by a prepositional phrase. Make sure that a singular antecedent and plural antecedent have agreement with the entire clause. A postcedent is the opposite of an antecedent. The prefix ante- means “before”, and post- means “after.” The root of the antecedent of a pronoun is Latin. Beware of faulty pronoun reference and ensure pronoun-antecedent agreement. Sometimes an antecedent can be in a verb phrase or adverb phrase. Make sure the intended antecedent you reference with your syntax is clear as not to cause confusion. Antecedents can be sued in first person, second person and third person with different types of pronoun.

What are examples of antecedents?

Antecedents can be used in many different contexts in the English language. Trying to use a word or grammatical technique in a sentence is one of the best ways to memorize what it is, but you can also try making flashcards or quizzes that test your knowledge. Try using this term of the day in a sentence today! Below are a couple of examples of antecedents that can help get you started incorporating this tool into your everyday use.  Take a look at these antecedent examples from Grammar Monster, Your Dictionary and Literary Devices  and see how many you can identify the antecedent in!

  •  The leaves have turned yellow; even then they are on the tree.
  •  A good story must have a quality about it; it must have characters, a setting, narration, and dialogues.
  •  Tell the professor I’ll see him tonight.
  •  The kids saw the cheetah, and they screamed with glee.
  •  Either Julie or Kim will loan me her notes from yesterday’s class.
  •  David plays football in the courtyard. All the children have gathered there.
  •  Jack and Jill love each other.
  •  Please hide these from Lee.
  •  Fred studies journalism just like his ancestors did.
  •  The defendant did not have logic and the jury found him guilty.
  •  My uncle likes candies. He asks everyone to give him them as gifts.
  •  When children are happy, they clap to express their pleasure.
  •  Let Mark do the work himself.
  •  Either Julie or the weather forecasters messed up their prediction.
  •  Othello (By William Shakespeare) “Me thinks the wind has spoke aloud at land, A fuller blast ne’er shook our battlements If it hath ruffianed so upon the sea What ribs of oak, when mountains melt on them …”
  •  When people are like each other, they tend to like each other. (Author Tony Robbins)
  •  Help others achieve their dreams, and you will achieve yours. (Author Les Brown)
  •  Who wants to live forever? (Singer Freddie Mercury)
  •  Nothing is impossible. The word itself says “I’m possible”! (Actress Audrey Hepburn)
  •  It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs. (Author Thomas Hardy)
  •  Fear has its use, but cowardice has none. (Gandhi)
  •  This land, this water, this air, this planet – this is our legacy to our young. (US politician Paul Tsongas)
  •  A meeting is an event where minutes are kept but hours are lost. (Anon)
  •  A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool. (Playwright William Shakespeare)
  •  Make sure Mark has some before Lee arrives.
  •  Gail said she will be late.
  •  Either Julie or another classmate will loan me their notes from yesterday’s class.
  •  Where’s the whelk that Lee caught?
  •  The clown was riding a bull, juggling five knives, and singing Nessun dorma. That is talent.
  •   A Poison Tree (By William Blake) “… I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow. And I watered it in fears, Night and morning with my tears; And I sunned it with smiles …”
  •  When he is nervous, the professor develops a stammer.
  •  Gary, Sarah, and Rachel are in the same class, so they all completed the same assignment.
  •  Jack and Jane were here at 6 p.m. last night, so they ate dinner with my family. 
  •  A Comedy of Errors (By William Shakespeare) “There’s not a man I meet but doth salute me As if I were their well-acquainted friend And every one doth call me by my name. Some tender money to me; some invite me …”
  •  Ode to Autumn (By John Keats) “And still more, later flowers for the bees, Until they think warm days will never cease, For Summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cell.”
  •  They hate one another.
  •  The bird ate the fish quickly, and immediately it flew away.
  •  I take my wife everywhere, but she keeps finding her way back. (Comedian Henny Youngman)
  •  I ate the ice cream and it gave me brain freeze. I should have had pie for dessert instead.
  •  If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live. (Civil-rights leader Martin Luther King)
  •  Sheila and Farah pet the chickens and they collected their eggs.
  •  When John comes inside, he will dry off with his towel in his bathroom. 

Overall, antecedent means the word that the corresponding pronouns later in a sentence refer to. Make sure that you have a clear antecedent with the correct pronoun, or risk a cringeworthy antecedent. Do not use the wrong antecedent and ensure gender agreement.


  1. Antecedent | What is an antecedent? | Grammar Monster 
  2. What Is an Antecedent? An Explanation in Simple Terms | Your Dictionary 
  3. Antecedent – Examples and Definition | Literary Devices