0

Furthermore, Gilbert’s vibrant description of Naples’s pizza makes it sound unique and delicious.

Does the "it" in the sentence above refer to the description or the pizza? Would it be better to rewrite the sentence as the one below?

Furthermore, Gilbert’s vibrant description of Naples’s pizza makes the pizza sound unique and delicious.

If I remember correctly, pronouns refer to previous noun mentioned. However, the word "pizza" is in a prepositional phrase. Therefore, doesn't the "it" refer to the word "description"?

(My goal is to say that the pizza sounds unique and delicious. This is pretty self-evident, but I just want to be as clear as possible.)

4

First, forget the supposed rule that pronouns refer to the most recent noun mentioned. It's not really how they work. As a reader, you should try to figure out the antecedent by looking at what would make the most sense. As a writer, you should only worry if there is a possibility of confusion, which there isn't in this case. If there is a possibility of confusion, you should make the situation unambiguously clear by more means than just the word order.

On the other hand, it is perfectly possible for the antecedent noun phrase to be in a prepositional phrase or a genitive phrase.

Moving on to grammatical issues, it's actually impossible for the antecedent to be "Gilbert’s vibrant description" in this case because that is the subject of the sentence, and "it" is the object. When the subject and the object are the same, we generally need to use a reflexive form, something like this:

Furthermore, Gilbert’s vibrant description of Naples’s pizza makes itself sound unique and delicious.

Since a reflexive form is not used in the original sentence, we know that the subject and object refer to different things.

"It" can't refer to "Gilbert" because he is a person. The remaining possible antecedents for "it" in the sentence are "Naples" and "pizza." Since cities are usually not described as "delicious," we know that "it" must refer to "pizza."

2

It refers definitely to the pizza.

For the vibrant description to be the referent to it, the sentence would need to be worded as follows (for example):

When I heard Gilbert's vibrant description of Naples' [or Neopolitan] pizza, it made the pizza sound unique and delicious.

You could even use a second it in the above sentence, and the reader (or auditor) of the sentence would still know that the second it referred to the pizza and not the vibrant description.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.