Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement Enters Political Arena


You have probably seen the recent political flak accusing President Obama of saying something to the effect that, if a person has a business, someone else built it. Charles Krauthammer began his July 21 column in The Birmingham News with this quote from Obama's speech:

If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made it happen.

That quote by itself  would bother most people, whatever their political preferences. However, Krauthammer did not quote the first sentence of Obama's paragraph, which was, "Somebody invested in roads and bridges." Common sense would suggest Obama was referring to ROADS AND BRIDGES, which support businesses, as having been built by someone else.

Although Obama was speakiing out loud (which might let him off the hook in anything but a political campaign), a more careful choice of pronouns could have saved him from Krauthammer's criticism. All Obama needed to do was use the word THOSE (plural, to refer to the ROADS and BRIDGES) instead of THAT and IT (singular). He should have said this:

Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build those. Somebody else made those happen.

Whenever you choose a pronoun, make sure it agrees with the noun it refers back to–especially if you are running for office.



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