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140 THE FACTS ON FILE GUIDE TO GOOD WRITING Both have gone missing. Few are left now. Many have died since then.

Note that the pronouns less, least, little, and much are always singular, since they usually refer to uncountable nouns: Little is better than none at all. Much remains to be discovered.

The pronoun one operates both in the singular (one is mine, one is yours) and in the plural, in the form ones (which ones are mine?). Reciprocal pronouns are pronouns employed when there is some kind of mutual relationship between the persons or things being referred to. They take the form each other or one another and are always used with a plural subject: Her parents detest each other. If we help one another we will soon get the job done.

In choosing between each other and one another the convention is to use each other when referring to two people or things (the twins love each other) and one another when there are more parties involved (we must all look after one another). This rule is not set in concrete, however, and is often disregarded. Note that a reciprocal pronoun may serve as the object of a verb or may follow a preposition (salute one another, look at each other). In most circumstances, reciprocal pronouns refer to people or animals, but they can also be applied to inanimate things: The carriages bumped into each other. The raindrops raced one another cross the windshield.

Gender of Pronouns The same conventions that govern the attribution of gender to nouns also hold true for pronouns. The pronouns themselves only reflect gender, however, in their third person singular forms (he, she, it, himself, herself, itself ). Masculine pronouns he and him are used in the place of masculine nouns, while feminine pronouns she and her are used as replacements for feminine nouns. Where the noun has no particular gender, it and its is usually employed as a replacement. It is also the usual choice of pronoun when the gender is unknown: The baby shook its rattle.

Problems can arise when a pronoun is understood to refer to people of either sex in relation to a word such as anyone or someone, because there is no singular pronoun that is accepted as including both genders. This question is less of an issue in the plural, since they and themselves have no particular gender, but in the singular it is not always appropriate to opt for it as an

Guide to good writing - Martin Manser  
Guide to good writing - Martin Manser