This is the sentence:

The auto-negotiating device will link at the speed of the non-negotiating device, and set its port to half-duplex mode.

Can someone explain on what is being referred here when "its" is mentioned?

Its = Auto-negotiating device?
Its = Non-negotiating device?

Which does it indicate and why?

  • 3
    It's ambiguous.
    – fev
    Oct 4 at 10:43
  • @fev, thank you for your comment. Usually, when such a sentence formation occurs, what does the "its" point to?
    – Freshman
    Oct 4 at 10:45
  • 1
    Does this answer your question? Antecedent Precedence? (antededent of 'it') Oct 4 at 14:13
  • This is a particular context, and the OP does not ask for a general rule, but how the rule applies to this particular context. I wouldn't close it as a dupe, dear folks. And I wouldn't DV both the question and the answer for this reason.
    – fev
    Oct 4 at 14:40
  • 3
    Logically, it seems pretty unlikely that a "non-negotiating device" would allow some external device to reconfigure its (the non-negotiating device's) ports. Software firewalls wouldn't be much good if that was standard practice. But that's real-world logic and reasoning - nothing to do with the fact that syntactically the cited text is ambiguous. Oct 4 at 17:07

1 Answer 1


It can be ambiguous, but from the structure of the sentence I would say it refers to the subject of the first main clause. Consider:

The auto-negotiating device will link at the speed of the non-negotiating device, and [the auto-negotiating device will] set its port to half-duplex mode.

If you write the second clause on its own it would be:

The auto-negotiating device will set its port to half-duplex mode.

I doubt its refers to a different device. It may be helpful to add own (its own port), to get rid of any ambiguity.

  • 1
    — I agree. An auto-negotiating device chooses its settings (its own settings; not those of other devices) to connect optimally to the network.
    – Segorian
    Oct 4 at 10:49
  • 1
    @Segorian While you were writing your comment I was adding my suggestion to use "own" in order to make it unambiguous.
    – fev
    Oct 4 at 10:51
  • 2
    +1. This was my reasoning as well.
    – Joachim
    Oct 4 at 18:34
  • As @FumbleFingers, and setting itself to half-duplex mode also suggests creating a basic connection with the non-negotiating device. Oct 4 at 18:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

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