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English for Academic Studies (Workshop) Session 3: Common ESL Errors II

Semester 1, 2009/10 ©PolyU HKCC

Session 3: Common ESL Errors II (Pronoun Agreement and Reference, Articles

and Nouns)

Part A: Diagnostic Test

Ten grammatical mistakes in the following passage have been underlined. Correct
the mistakes in the space between the lines.
a an
Assisted suicide, aka euthanasia, is ∧process by which ∧individual, who may
otherwise be incapable, is provided with the means, such as equipment, drugs etc., to
commit suicide. As in many other jurisdictions, assisted suicide is illegal in Hong
Kong. For years, people have still been discussing whether or not assisted suicide
should be legalized. One of the major arguments against it is that legalizing assisted
suicide will open the “floodgates” to people seeking mercy killing.
In spite of opposite views, I am in total support of them∧. Anyone who has ever
his or her him or her they
experienced situations in which ∧your relatives tell ∧you that ∧he or she could not stand
the pain of an additional day will perhaps understand why mercy killing in some cases is
necessary. When different potentially effective medicines are tried and all hopes
exhausted, to “forcibly” prolong the lives of the dying is nothing but a torture. Besides,
his or her
while it is perfectly legal for a person to take ∧their life, wouldn't it be absurd to disallow
his or her
another to determine how ∧their life should end simply because he or she is incapable of
doing so.

Part B: Grammar Principles – Review

Pronoun Agreement
A pronoun is a replacement of a noun. A pronoun must agree with the word it replaces
in (1) number and in (2) gender. For example, Joshua and Marta are members of Orbis’s
medical volunteers and they will be involved in the post-operative consultations in the
coming weekend.
English for Academic Studies (Workshop) Session 3: Common ESL Errors II
Semester 1, 2009/10 ©PolyU HKCC

Articles and Nouns

Use a or an for singular nonspecific count nouns; use the with all specific nouns –
specific singular, plural, and noncount nouns. For plurals and noncount nouns, articles
can be omitted. For example, something strange happened to me when I was in the
library this morning. The new textbook I purchased, which I placed on the table, was
gone after I went to look for some references; I found instead a used one placed on the

Part C: Concept Boosting Exercises

Exercise C1: The following are some ungrammatical sentences. Identify (i) the
mistake(s) and (ii) correct the mistake(s). Some sentences may have more than one
his or her
1. Either the servers or the manager must give ∧their permission for you to return that
half-eaten dish.
2. It was ∧easy quiz. However, because I have never been good at Accounting, it still
took me a long time to complete the paper.
3. My brother’s son, in a way resembling many young kids, believes in everything ∧they
comes across in tabloids.
you your
4. If you want to take leave during the Lunar New Year, ∧they had better indicate ∧their
wish as soon as possible.

5. Even with the most effective tattoo removal procedure, a person’s skin can hardly be
restored to ∧their original condition. Thus, a person should think twice before
having tattoos.
6. The ideas put forth by Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud had no doubt made ∧its mark on
twentieth-century life.
English for Academic Studies (Workshop) Session 3: Common ESL Errors II
Semester 1, 2009/10 ©PolyU HKCC

7. Ben is the most pessimistic person I have come across. He likes to look on dark side
of things. When he encounters problems, he always dramatizes ∧it. Indeed, these
days I find him so intolerable that his grumbles always madden me.
the the
8. What did ∧teacher say about your performance in ∧recent test?
he or she
9. You can always understand a person by looking at company ∧they keeps.

10. When people are in love, they tend to downplay problems found in their partners. It
is only when lovers are no longer so much in love that minor problems escalate into
major faults.

Exercise C2: Add an appropriate article (a/an, the, or φ) in the blanks. There can be
more than one possible answer.

1. I didn't bring the alcohol you asked for. I completely forgot about it.

2. Did you tip the magicians at your party? Their performance suggested that they
uncertainly didn't deserve our tipping.

3. Christina wanted to purchase a gift for her grandmother, but she ended up buying
things for herself.

4. I know Galen’s character. He will not like to share φ problems with others.
However, he wouldn't mind mentioning his problems once they were resolved.

5. Would you like a or φ cold iced tea?

Exercise C3: Add appropriate personal pronouns (she, it, etc.) or articles (a/an, the)
in the blanks.

1. Mary got a new car for her birthday. She is glad that her parents gave it to her for
a car will be much more practical than other gifts.

2. The essay that Michele submitted received an F grade. For one, he didn't include
English for Academic Studies (Workshop) Session 3: Common ESL Errors II
Semester 1, 2009/10 ©PolyU HKCC

any of the components Dr. Killah had explained when he assigned the essay. For the
other, Dr Killah retrieved a replica of Michele’s work in the Internet.

Exercise C4: Select one of the following topics and write a 100-word paragraph in
response to the chosen topic by applying the language skills learnt in these three

Answers may vary.