He leaned heavily and wearily upon Mason's arms while the latter sustained him as best he could.

In the above sentence, "the latter" seems to indicate "Mason", but I'm not sure that the possessive "Mason's" could be eligible for the pronoun "the latter". Is it possible?

"The latter" could refer to Mason of Mason's, and then the latter could seem to refer to the possessive such as him/her/them/us, etc.

  • 1
    The terms "former" and "latter" should always cause the reader to look for two subjects; and the context in this case demands they be people (or, at least, things that can "sustain" people). Since there are two people mentioned ("He", and "Mason") then it logically follows that it is Mason. The fact that the latter is combined with a possessive doesn't really come into it. Aug 25, 2015 at 11:03
  • Possessives can be antecedents for pronouns and other anaphors like the latter. For instance, in She took hold of Mason's arm after he stumbled, it is clear that he refers to Mason. The presence or absence of the possessive -'s postclitic doesn't really affect coreference. Aug 25, 2015 at 16:52

1 Answer 1


This is weak (also called hidden or implied) pronoun reference, one of three/four errors in pronoun reference, so it should be fixed by substituting the latter with Mason.

Avoid implied reference. Implied reference occurs when the antecedent is not stated; it may be a related word, a modifier, or a possessive form.



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