It seems like a basic concept, but I want to make sure. Can the antecedent ever be in a prepositional phrase?

For example:

Jill likes running with Julie. She is a good person.

Does she refer to Julie or Jill?

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    She likes running with Julie, who is a good person. In that case, who refers to Julie, unambiguously; in the unconnected sentences, she could refer to either woman. Except for bare pronouns, which have their own syntax with relative clauses, any noun phrase anywhere in the sentence can be an antecedent for a relative clause. Nov 3, 2013 at 23:28

1 Answer 1


The question you ask, “Can the antecedent ever be used in a prepositional phrase?” is of course, certainly it can. Proof:

After the meteorite fell on Jack, he was never again the same.

Jack likes running with Jill. She is a good person.

Jack likes running with Jill. He is a good person.

As you see, I have constructed three such examples. The answer to your question title is therefore “yes”.

But that isn’t what your question actually asked. You wanted to know whether in

Jill likes running with Julie. She is a good person.

Now you ask which of the two girls that she is referring to. Without further context, it is difficult to say with certainty.

There is a rule of thumb that says the closest antecedent is the most likely one, but of course alternate contexts can change all that. Still, it often works.

This has been covered before:

The problem is that English doesn’t have distal personal pronouns, like this-she and that-she. There is no “third person proximate” vs “third person distant”.

Many languages around the world have other pronouns than fit into our 1st/2nd/3rd person models, but English is not one of them. You might check the literature for “fourth person pronoun”, but just what is or isn’t meant by that varies considerably depending on which language you’re talking about.

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