I'd like to know if "their" in the cleft sentence below can refer to "every businessman" in the last part of the sentence. Can possessive pronouns only refer to certain nouns in the previous sentence or the front part of the sentence?

It's the confidential information through their network tie that can yield profits for every businessman.

  • Yes, "their" clearly refers to "every business person". The sentence as a whole suggests either that the confidential information... is the only thing that can yield profits, or that in the greater context of this sentence, it's being compared to something that cannot yield profits. Not sure if that's the intent.
    – gotube
    Jun 30, 2021 at 20:47
  • Also, "ties" rather than "tie" would be correct, and if you wouldn't mind formatting the example sentence as a quote by adding a ">" in front of it, it would be an easier read for us :)
    – gotube
    Jun 30, 2021 at 20:49

1 Answer 1


Yes, pronouns (including possessive pronouns) can refer to nouns that haven't yet been used, but it's often confusing.

I would reword this sentence to be "Every business person profits from confidential information through their network tie."

  • I agree - this usage might be allowed, but it's ugly and confusing in this context.
    – stangdon
    Jun 30, 2021 at 21:02

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