The personal pronoun I is paired with the possessive pronoun mine because both have the same antecedent, the speaker, who refers to herself in the first-person singular. Likewise, the speaker must refer to her group of friends using the second-person plural personal and possessive pronouns you and yours, respectively.
- Incorrect: I brought my beer, and I’m glad to see that some of you brought theirs.
- Correct: I brought my beer, and I’m glad to see that some of you brought yours.
As with subject and object pronouns, you must be able to both recognize a possessive pronoun and remember the possessive form. See if you can spot the pronoun error in the following sentence:
If anyone comes over to take your name, make sure that you take theirs.
Remember, anyone is a singular pronoun. However, the possessive pronoun theirs is plural. You need the singular form of the pronoun his or hers.
Note: This error has become common because of the demand for political correctness; instead of writing “his” or “hers,” people will often just write “theirs.” Either “his” or “hers” alone is fine if you don’t want or need to specify gender, but writing “his or hers” is also acceptable:
- Incorrect: If anyone comes over to take your name, make sure that you take theirs.
- Correct: If anyone comes over to take your name, make sure that you take his or hers.
- Correct: If anyone comes over to take your name, make sure that you take his.
- Correct: If anyone comes over to take your name, make sure that you take hers.
Working with Impersonal Pronoun Antecedents
On the GMAT, the pronouns one, you, and they – the “impersonal pronouns” – are sometimes improperly matched with their possessive and reflexive forms. Impersonal pronouns are a kind of indefinite pronoun, and they are used to refer to an unspecified, generic person:
One must never disobey one’s parents.
Here, one and one’s are used in a generic sense: they are not referring to a specific individual, but rather any individual. The word one’s modifies the noun parents: one’s parents. It is the possessive adjective form of the impersonal pronoun “one.”
Here is another example:
You should have yours ready when you get there.
Once again, the pronoun is used in a generic sense: you refers to any individual who might be reading the sentence. The word yours stands in for a noun phrase: yours = “your [noun].” It is the possessive pronoun form of the impersonal pronoun you.
Impersonal pronouns also take a reflexive form. Reflexive pronouns are a class of pronouns that refer to (and sometimes emphasize) the antecedent. They are the object of the verb and refer back to the subject.
One should love oneself.
Here, the pronoun one is matched with the reflexive pronoun oneself, which is the reflexive form of the impersonal pronoun one.
Working with Impersonal Pronouns: You or One?
You may have heard that using you is less proper than using one, but on the GMAT, all that matters is consistency: pronouns with the same antecedent must match in terms of number, gender, and person. There is no word-choice preference between you and one — they have the same meaning when acting as impersonal pronouns.
- Incorrect: One should have their teeth checked every six months.
- Correct: One should have one’s teeth checked every six months.
- Correct: You should have your teeth checked every six months.
- Incorrect: One should take your responsibilities seriously.
- Correct: One should take one’s responsibilities seriously.
- Correct: You should take your responsibilities seriously.
The rule for all indefinite pronouns is consistency: do not mix and match indefinite pronouns that have the same antecedent.