Sunday, November 4, 2012

Apocalypto: Pronoun-Antecedent Disagreement

Samantha writes:
Snarky, my ELA assignment is to find the error on this poster. Help!

The mistake is in the tagline running along the bottom of the poster just above the credits.
No one can outrun their destiny.
Where does this movie poster go wrong? The possessive pronoun, their, does not agree with its antecedent, no one. 'No one' is singular so it needs a singular possessive pronoun (e.g., his, her, its). In this case, it seems that 'his' would have been the best choice.

Quick rule:
  • A pronoun must agree in number with the noun it replaces (the antecedent).

  • No one can outrun his destiny.


  1. Technically you are correct, but the singular use of "they" is getting more common as a gender neutral pronoun. If they used the word "his" in the tagline, I feel like the poster could have been interpreted as sexist. I'm sure you have much more experience with grammar as I do, so let my know if I missed something important.

  2. English Pronouns is very important because its structure is used in every day conversation. The more you practice the subject, the closer you get to mastering the English language.

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  3. The pronoun "they" is commonly used as 3rd person singular pronoun that is neutral between masculine and feminine. It is convinient means of avoiding dilemma of whether to use "he" or "she" form.At one time restricted to informal usage ,it is now increasingly accepted even in formal usage,especially in AmE.
    Rather than use "he" in the unmarked sense or the clumsy "he" or " she",many prfer to seek gender impartialityby using a plural form where possible in reference to the indefinite pronouns "everyone","everybody","anybody"."anyone","someone","sombody"."no one","nobody".For example: ¿Has anybody brought their camera?

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  7. The writer plainly has a complete blind spot when it comes to the use of "they" and "their" as gender-neutral singular forms. This is not the only post on the website in which this blind spot is in evidence.

    It is linguistic snobbery of the highest order not only to assert that "their" cannot agree with "no one", but to refuse even to acknowledge the prevalence of the singular "they". It has been used for centuries. It is widely accepted. Resistance to it is completely irrational.

    Summary: there is nothing grammatically objectionable with saying that "no one can outrun their destiny". If Samantha's teacher thinks that there is, their view is just as misplaced as the writer's.

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  11. I don't know if I agree. Technically it sounds great, but we get into debate over weather his should be replaced with his/her? Anyway, love the site and thanks for taking a note.
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