Possessive Agreement Exercise (268)

Choose the possessive form that agrees with its antecedent in the following sentences.

  • Both Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton have made ____ opinions known.

  • The Acme Anvil Company does not treat ____ employees fairly.

  • Neither the Belgian Malinois nor the German Shepherd Dog achieved ____ obedience certificate the first time around.

  • Every member of the Girl Scout troop received ____ proficiency rating in welding.

  • England expects that every man will do ___ duty.

Answers and Explanations

1. Both Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton have made their opinions known.

The subject "Both" is plural so the possessive adjective is plural.

2. The Acme Anvil Company does not treat its employees fairly.

In American usage, companies are treated as singular, so the possessive adjective is singular.

3. Neither the Belgian Malinois nor the German Shepherd Dog achieved its obedience certificate the first time around.

Neither is a singular pronoun, but whether it will take a singular or plural possessive adjective depends upon the number of the noun that is closer to the verb. For example, "Neither the Malinois nor the Shepherd achieved its certificate," BUT "Neither the collie nor the beagles achieved their certificates."

4. Every member of the Girl Scout troop received her proficiency rating in welding.

The subject is singular (member) so the possessive is singular. There’s no problem with political correctness because (presumably) all of the Girl Scouts are female.

5. England expects that every man will do his duty.

As man is masculine and singular, the correct possessive is his. If instead of man the sentence had citizen, some writers would choose to put their, despite the fact that citizen is singular. Speakers who can’t bring themselves to write a mixed agreement like "every citizen will do their duty" are free to rewrite the sentence in the plural: "England expects that all citizens will do their duty."

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