Missing a pronoun or relative pronoun; unclear pronoun reference or wrong use of a pronoun.

Missing relative pronoun

The relative pronouns (e.g. “who”, “which”, “that”, “whom”) cannot be omitted when they are the subject of the relative clause. It is okay to omit the relative pronoun when they are not the subject of the relative clause.
In example 1, “the man” is the subject of the verb “came”, so we cannot omit the relative pronoun “who”. In example 2, “the book” is the object of “read”, so we can omit the relative pronoun (i.e. “that” or “which”).

Example 1: I know the man. The man came yesterday.= I know the man who came yesterday.

Example 2: The book we read yesterday was quite nice.= The book was quite nice (that/which) we read (the book) yesterday.

In example 3, we cannot omit the relative pronoun because it is the subject of the clause “have been constructed”.

 

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 3.

In the past few years, there have been several green buildings _ have been constructed.

In the past few years, there have been several green buildings which have been constructed.

 

Missing personal pronoun

In example 4, “comparing” is a transitive verb (see also Transitive/ Intransitive Verb) and needs an object (i.e. “the harbour” or “it”).

In example 5, the verb “tries” has no subject.  

 

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 4.

This paper is going to analyze the existing problems in the Hong Kong harbour, and to propose ways of improving the harbour by comparing _ with other renowned harbour cities around the world.

This paper is going to analyze the existing problems in the Hong Kong harbour, and to propose ways of improving the harbour by comparing it with other renowned harbour cities around the world.

 5.

The “Resource Conservation Branch” of Cape Town lays out clear plans for the usage of resources, and _ tries to implement a sustainable development plan for the city.

The “Resource Conservation Branch” of Cape Town lays out clear plans for the usage of resources, and it tries to implement a sustainable development plan for the city.

 

 

 

Unclear pronoun reference

Pronouns always refer to an antecedent (i.e. people or things mentioned before). 

In example 6, the pronoun “them” does not refer to anything mentioned before. 

In example 7, although the writer intends to link “which” with “Victoria Harbor”, the relative pronoun cannot refer to “Victoria Harbor” here because another noun (antecedent) “stunning panoramic night view” is mentioned after “Victoria Harbor”. 

In example 8, it is not clear what the instances of “it” refer to. “It” in “It lacks facilities […]” cannot refer to “poor urban planning” because it does not make sense. “It” in “it would damage […]” can refer to “poor urban planning” but it is too far away. So, it is better to use a noun phrase (i.e. “poor urban planning”) to make it clear what the writer is trying to say. The remaining instances of “it” cannot refer to “poor urban planning” because it does not make sense.

 

 

 

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 6.

Moreover, the government carries out firework displays over the harbour regularly. The importance of Victoria Harbour attracts them to hold these races and display here.

Moreover, the government carries out firework displays over the harbour regularly. The importance of Victoria Harbour attracts organisations to hold these races and display here.

 7.

Victoria Harbor is celebrated for its stunning panoramic night view which has a nickname called ‘Pearl of the Orient’.

Victoria Harbor is celebrated for its stunning panoramic night view. This gives rise to the harbor’s nickname: ‘Pearl of the Orient’.

 8.

Poor urban planning impedes the development of Hong Kong. It lacks facilities like parks, recreation
areas, and waterfront promenades to name but a few. Last but not least, it would damage the natural, social and cultural heritage. It illustrates that it is not a sustainable development. It is not satisfactory
with the development of the harbour.

Poor urban planning impedes the development of Hong Kong, resulting in a lack of facilities like parks, recreation areas and waterfront promenades in the city. Last but not least, poor urban planning would damage the natural, social and cultural heritage. This illustrates that the urban development of Hong Kong is not a sustainable one. The development of the harbour is unsatisfactory in particular.

 

Restrictive VS. Non-restrictive relative pronoun

There are two types of relative clause: restrictive (or defining) relative clauses and non-restrictive (or non-defining) relative clauses. Restrictive relative clauses narrow down the meaning of their antecedent, whereas non-restrictive relative clauses expand the meaning of their antecedent.

In example 9, “that we read yesterday” is a restrictive relative clause because it narrows down the meaning of its antecedent (i.e. “the book”). It singles out “the book that we read yesterday” from all the other books in the world. 

In example 10, the relative clause “which according to some scientists is affecting our planet” is non-restrictive because it does not narrow down the meaning of its antecedent (i.e. “climate change”). On the contrary, it expands the message by providing additional information (i.e. Climate change, which –by the way—is affecting our planet according to some scientists, is the subject of […].). 

Example 9: The book that we read yesterday was quite good.

Example 10: Climate change, which according to most scientists is affecting our planet, is the subject of Joseph DiMento’s new book.In examples 11 and 12, the relative pronoun “that” can never be used in non-restrictive clauses. We can only use the relative pronoun “which” preceded by a comma. 

 

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 11.

Decades of continuous reclamation has changed the coastline of Victoria Harbour that increases the risk of sea accidents. 

Decades of continuous reclamation has changed the coastline of Victoria Harbour, which increases the risk of sea accidents. 

 12.

The competitiveness of Hong Kong’s tourism is decreasing when compared with other “Harbour Cities” such as Shanghai that preserves architectural heritage near the harbour.

The competitiveness of Hong Kong’s tourism is decreasing when compared with other “Harbour Cities” such as Shanghai, which preserves architectural heritage near the harbour.

 

Wrong possessive pronoun

In examples 13, the possessive pronoun “its” is needed to refer to “Hong Kong’s natural factors” because the “natural factors” belong to Hong Kong.

In example 14, the possessive relative pronoun “whose” is needed to refer to “the name of Hong Kong” because the name of “fragrant harbour” belongs to “Hong Kong”.  

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Although Hong Kong has it natural factors to help it develop, in fact the city is facing more problems than the past.

Although Hong Kong has its natural factors to help it develop, in fact the city is facing more problems than the past.

Hong Kong, which name is well known as “the fragrant harbour”, is famous for the excellent Victoria Harbour.

Hong Kong, whose name is well known as “the fragrant harbour”, is famous for the excellent Victoria Harbour.

 

Wrong relative pronoun

In example 15, the relative pronoun “where” cannot be used in the subject position. Only “which” and “that” can be used in this position. It is okay to use “where” in “The place where I study is called THEi.” because “where” is not the subject of the relative clause (i.e. “where I study”). 

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Sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck is located in Tsim Sha Tsui where is also near Victoria Harbor.

Sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck is located in Tsim Sha Tsui which is also near Victoria Harbor.

 

See more.

 

Click here for a quiz on pronoun usage.

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