Sentence correction questions are frequently asked in a number of competitive exams. Pronoun reference error is a specific type of error which comes in sentence correction or error spotting section. But to understand these, we first need to understand pronouns and nouns.
Nouns - name of a person, place or thing, such as India, Delhi, cat, class etc.
Pronouns - these are the words that we use in place of nouns, such as he, she, they, them, it etc.
What is Pronoun reference error?
A pronoun should always refer clearly to one unmistakable noun coming before the pronoun. This noun is called the pronoun’s antecedent. In case of a faulty, vague, hidden (adjective instead of noun) or no antecedent, the sentence is known to have a pronoun reference error.
Example 1: The minister met the manager and he recognized him.
In this question there is ambiguity, as to what does the “he” point to? Hence in this the pronoun is not pointing to any particular person. Thus we are not sure, whether the manager recognized the minister, or the minister recognized the manager? When any pronoun in a sentence is not referring to any specific noun in that sentence then it results into “pronoun reference error”.
Pronoun reference error can be solved in two ways:
The sentence in example 1 can be corrected in the following ways:
1. The minister met the manager who recognized him.
In this case, the manager has recognized the minister.
2. The minister met the manager and recognized him.
In this case, the minister has recognized the manager.
Some more examples:
Example 2: In this book it states that Pluto is not a Planet.
In this book it is stated that Pluto is not a Planet as ‘it’ in ‘it states’ does not refer to anyone.
Example 3: In Afghanistan they are fed up of the Taliban
In Afghanistan the people are fed up of the Taliban as ‘they’ in above sentence does not refer to anyone or in other words ‘they’ is ambiguous’.
Therefore to correct this error, one has to pick the choice, which clears this ambiguity i.e. the option in which this ambiguity is removed.