Compound Antecedents: Definition & Examples

EnglishComprehensive EnglishSentence Structure: Elements of Grammar


Antecedents are word, noun or word phrase that comes in the sentence earlier than the pronoun. The referent pronoun that replaces an antecedent later makes the sentence more readable. A compound antecedent is a type of antecedent that expresses a compound form of multiple antecedents. We can easily understand from the word 'compound' that there must be more than one antecedent. And one compound antecedent functions like a word phrase or group of words.

Compound Antecedents: Definition with Examples

Compound antecedents are a group of multiple antecedents that are joined with conjunctions. Such antecedents are typically joined with 'and', 'either-or', 'or', and 'neither-nor' to make a compound structure.

Compound antecedents are nothing but compound words. If you have knowledge about antecedents, then you can understand compound antecedents easily. Compound antecedents are compound forms of multiple antecedents, usually joined with four conjunctions: 'and', 'or', 'either or' or 'neither nor'.

Examples of Compound Antecedents in sentences

  • Jeetu and Paresh completed their journey to the destination. (Compound antecedents: 'Jeetu and Paresh', referent pronoun: their)

  • Pooja or Neha has done this beautiful craft for her school project. (Compound antecedents: 'Pooja or Neha', referent pronoun: her)

  • Either Kamal or his classmates decorated their classroom for the teacher's day celebration. (Compound antecedents with joiners: 'Either Kamal or his classmates', referent pronoun: their)

  • Neither the boys nor the girls provided their identity cards. (Compound antecedents with joiners: 'Neither the boys nor the girls', referent pronoun: their)

Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

Understanding the pronoun-antecedent agreement of compound antecedent is important. Otherwise, you will not be able to write correctly using compound antecedents. Compound antecedents, like any other antecedent, precede pronouns in a sentence. Whether the pronoun will be plural or singular will depend on the type of the compound antecedents.

There are four types of compound antecedents. These types are denoted by the conjunctions (and, or, either or, neither nor) with which antecedents get connected while forming compound construction. We are going to discuss this in detail in the tutorial.

The main purpose of the pronoun-antecedent agreement is to use the correct form of the referent pronoun. The referent pronoun replaces the antecedent, so we do not need to repeat it.

The pronoun that replaces the antecedent must be singular if the antecedent is singular. And the pronoun that replaces the antecedent must be plural if the antecedent is plural. Now, we must keep in mind that the conjunction present in the antecedent plays an essential role in determining this.

If the compound antecedent contains 'and' as conjunction, then the pronoun has to be plural. It represents two antecedents in a compound structure. Compound antecedents with 'or', 'either…or' or 'neither…nor' follow a different rule. In this case, the pronoun must follow the antecedent closest to it. So, the form of pronoun (singular/plural) depends on the closest antecedent.

Uses of Compound Antecedent

Uses of compound antecedent along with the referent pronoun are like the following:

Compound antecedent with 'and'

The conjunction 'and' ties two antecedents and forms a compound antecedent. And we use the plural form of referent pronoun for such cases.


John and Mary opened the box to take out their toys.

Here in the sentence, 'John and Mary' is a compound antecedent. And the referent pronoun is 'their'.

Compound antecedent with 'or', 'either…or', and 'neither…nor'

If there is 'or', 'either…or, 'neither…nor' in a compound antecedent, then the referent pronoun must follow the antecedent nearest to it.

If both antecedents in such compound antecedents are singular, then the pronoun will be singular always. And the rule is vice versa.


  • The teacher or the students came here to take their classroom keys.

    In the above sentence, the referent pronoun is 'their', and it follows the nearest antecedent, 'students'. So, the pronoun is plural.

  • Either the players or the coach left the field, taking his belongings.

    Here in the above sentence, the referent pronoun 'his' follows the closest antecedent ', the coach'. So, it is singular.

  • Neither Pratap nor Ayush joined his office meeting.

    Here the referent pronoun 'his' follows the closest antecedent Ayush. Both antecedents are singular in the sentence. So, the referent pronoun must be singular from this perspective.

Identifying a Compound Antecedent

Identifying a compound antecedent helps to write flawless English. You can select a referent pronoun for the compound antecedent following the pronoun-antecedent agreement once you identify it.

The easiest way to identify a compound antecedent is to find the conjunction. If there are two antecedents joined with 'and', 'or', 'either…or', 'neither…nor', then it is a compound antecedent. And such compound antecedent sits earlier than the pronoun in the sentence.


Compound antecedents are constructed with multiple antecedents. And such antecedents are joined with joiners. As seen previously in the tutorial, mainly four types of joiners are used for such antecedents: and, or, either or, neither nor. And we can easily identify compound antecedents with the presence of such conjunctions or joiners.

The pronoun that replaces the compound antecedent afterwards must follow the pronoun-antecedent agreement. And this ensures the correct use of referent pronouns.


Q1. What is a compound antecedent?

Ans. The compound antecedent is a combination of two antecedents joined with conjunctions.

Q2. How can you identify a compound antecedent?

Ans. Compound antecedent can be easily identified from the presence of the conjunction in it.

Q3. What are the conjunctions present in the compound antecedents?

Ans. Generally, there are four conjunctions present in the compound antecedents. We see 'and', 'or'. 'either…or', 'neither…nor' as joiners in compound antecedents.

Q4. How do you use pronouns for compound antecedents?

Ans. If the joiner of the compound antecedent is 'and', then the pronoun must be plural. If the joiner is 'or', neither…nor', 'either…or', then the pronoun follows the nearest antecedent. If both antecedents with such joiners (or, either or, neither nor) are singular, then the referent pronoun should be singular. And the rule is vice-versa.

Updated on 13-Oct-2022 11:19:47