“Possessive Pronoun” can be used with “Possessive Noun” on GMAT

An important concept on GMAT sentence correction is that a pronoun always needs a noun for reference. An exception is that a possessive pronoun can be used with possessive nouns. Watch this video to understand the concept.

"Possessive Pronoun" can be used with "Possessive Noun" on GMAT

There is a major exception to the rules governing the use of possessive pronouns, on the GMAT, that you must keep in mind while solving the sentence correction questions. Typically, a pronoun always needs a noun for reference, but in the case of possessive pronouns, a possessive noun can be used as the referent. In this short article, we will discuss this exception, in detail.

The Exception

As mentioned above, possessive pronouns can be used to refer to possessive nouns, although possessive nouns cannot typically be referred to with pronouns. Let us illustrate this concept, through the following examples:

Example 1 - Jack's car is in such bad shape that his friends don't borrow it.
A grammatical purist may say that this sentence is incorrect because the pronoun "he" does not have an appropriate referent; the sentence should include the noun "Jack" but it does not. Rather it only includes the possessive noun "Jack's car", and as the pronoun "he" cannot be used to refer to inanimate objects, it does not have a proper referent. However, this understanding is a bit incomplete; what you must understand here is that possessive nouns such as "his" can indeed refer to possessive nouns such as "Jack's", so the sentence is correct.

Let us take a look at the following examples to further understand this concept.

Example 2 - Jack's car is in such a bad shape that he must get it repaired at once.
In this sentence, the pronoun "he" is not in the possessive form; it is the subject of the sentence, meaning that the sentence is saying that "he" must get "Jack's car" repaired at once. This means that in this case, the sentence is incorrect, as the subject "he" would need the noun "Jack". The subject or object form of a pronoun does not agree with possessive nouns.

Example 3 - Jack's car is in such bad shape that Jack needs to get it repaired at once.
In contrast to Example 2, this sentence is correct because the noun "Jack" is the subject of the sentence, rather than the pronoun "he".

This is a very important concept that is not covered in most GMAT materials; understanding this concept will allow you to solve a number of complex sentence correction questions.

This article has deliberately been kept brief; for a more elaborate explanation, please refer to Experts' Global's Stage One Sentence Correction videos.

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