Antecedent (grammar)

Almost any syntactic category can serve as the antecedent to a proform. The following examples illustrate a range of proforms and their antecedents. The proforms are in bold, and their antecedents are underlined

For example, consider the sentence, "There was a doll inside the box, which was made of clay" where the word "which" could refer to either the box or the doll. To improve, the sentence could be reworded as: "Inside the box, there was a doll which was made of clay" or, "Inside the box, there was a doll made of clay" or, "There was a girl doll inside the box, and she was made of clay" (or similar wording).

Antecedents may also be unclear when they occur far from the noun or phrase they refer to. Bryan Garner calls these, "remote relatives", and gives this example from the New York Times:

"C-130 aircraft packed with radio transmitters flew lazy circles over the Persian Gulf broadcasting messages in Arabic to the Iraqi people that were monitored by reporters near the border."

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Patrick E. Tyler, “War Imminent as Hussein Rejects Ultimatum,” N.Y. Times, 19 Mar. 2003