Posted by: helpforyourenglish | April 18, 2011

Reading skills – referencing

When you read English texts, you will find many examples of the following common words: it, they, he, she, his, her, its, that, their, and there. We use those short, common words instead of using many other words – usually nouns. For you to understand the text or speech, it is important for you to understand what those common words refer to.

For example: Tom loves drinking coffee. He drinks it every day.

In that example, it = coffee. Tom loves drinking coffee. He drinks it every day.

We can write, “Tom loves drinking coffee. He drinks coffee every day” but it is more natural and common in English to use ‘it’ instead. 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Here are some more easy examples:
….s:

I think your teacher is nice. Why don’t you like him?  (him = the teacher) 

I’m going to Japan next week. Have you ever been there? (there = Japan) 

I like Celine Dion. I think she is a great singer. (she = Celine Dion)

Do you like the Spice Girls? No, I don’t like them or their music. (them = the Spice Girls) (their [music] = the Spice Girls’ [music])

Do you like Korean music? Yes, I love it. (it = Korean music)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 

A sentence can have more than one referent word. For example:
…………………

Peter was playing with a ball with his friends, John and Tom. When they started teasing him, he picked it up and threw it at them.

There are seven referents in two sentences.

his [friends] = Peter’s [friends], they = John and Tom, him = Peter, he = Peter, it = the ball, it = the ball, them = John and Tom.

If we re-write the sentences, they become:

Peter was playing with a ball with Peter’s friends, John and Tom. When John and Tom started teasing Peter, Peter picked the ball up and threw the ball at John and Tom.

You can see that the sentences with referents are shorter than the sentences without the referents.  

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In reading tests, you are often asked to connect referent words to the words or meanings they refer to.
….  

Different ways to ask referent questions:

What does it refer to?   What does xxx refer to?   What does the word xxx refer to? 

In paragraph 2, what does xxx refer to?

In line 6 of paragraph 1, “them” refers to: (a) ………. (b) ………. (c) ………. (d) ……..

In line 16, Peter says, “They always help us.”  Who are they?

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Sometimes a referent question is like a vocabulary question – you have to match two words, expressions or ideas.
…………………. 

1. The US President Barack Obama said, “I spent two hours this morning talking to my French counterpart.”

Question: Who does the word ‘counterpart’ refer to?  (Who is Barack Obama’s French counterpart?)

Answer: The French President (Nicolas Sarkozy).

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Now try these examples:
…….

Text 1: I read in the newspapers that there are about 200 fires in American schools each year and more than half of them are started by boys under the age of 16.

Question 1: The word “them” refers to: (a) newspapers (b) fires (c) schools (d) boys

…… 

Text 2: A mother and her two children were among those who died in Alabama, officials said. The trio had been sheltering inside their double-wide trailer when it was thrown about 500 ft by the winds, landing on its roof.

Question 2: Who does trio refer to?

Question 3: What does it refer to?

Text 2 is from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13109627

………….. 

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Responses

  1. As usual a great blog entry, of course, as a ritual, educative ones, I promoted on FB, Stumble for friends. Thank you for being friends.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Carlos, and thanks for promoting my blog. I appreciate it and I appreciate the feedback. I’m always happy when people like or find my blog useful or when they ask questions.

  2. Now I understand that what you wrote about but I have not still known how to answer the question.I’m lost.

    What does it refer to? What does xxx refer to? What does the word xxx refer to?

    In paragraph 2, what does xxx refer to?

    In line 6 of paragraph 1, “them” refers to: (a) ………. (b) ………. (c) ………. (d) ……..

    In line 16, Peter says, “They always help us.” Who are they?

    Please explain. Thank you. 🙂

    • Hello Bird. Thanks for your comment. Those questions are just to show you the type of questions you might see in an English reading test, for example at school, college or university.

  3. It really is a splendid and very helpful blog. I do like it, thank you. May I answer the questions?

    1. The word “them” refers to (b) fire.
    2. “Trio” refers to “a mother and her two children.
    3. “It” refers to the “trailler.”

    Please correct it if I’m incorrect. Thank you. I always love your blogs.

    • Hi Bambang. Thanks for dropping by my blog again. Yes, you are correct!
      3/3 (three out of three). Well done. 🙂

  4. Hi, I’m Dyah from Java. I like your blogs very much as they’re so informative and very useful to help me learn English. And I’d be very grateful if you let me join your group.
    These are to answer the questions:
    1. “Them” refers to (b)” fires.”
    2. “Trio” refers to “a lady and her two children.”
    3. “It” refers to “trailler.”

    • Hello Dyah.

      Thanks for your kind words. I am glad you like my blog and find it useful.

      I am happy when I help people improve their English. Anyone can read my blog and anyone can ask me questions and I will try to answer those questions. There is no “group” on my blog. However, perhaps you mean on Facebook. I see we are already friends on Facebook. 🙂

      Your answers to the questions are correct. Well done. 🙂


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