An antecedent is a noun that a pronoun replaces and refers to. In proper French and English prose, the antecedent of a pronoun will appear no farther away than the immediately preceding clause.
In the examples below, I have marked antecedents and their nouns with bolding or with the color orange.
Rule: All Pronouns Have Antecedents
…unless they are indefinite pronouns.
Personal pronouns have antecedents:
- Estelle ne viendra pas. Elle a eu un empêchement. (Estelle will not be coming. She has had something come up.)
Definite demonstrative pronouns have antecedents:
- Ni Georgette ni Estelle ne viendront. Celle-ci a eu un empêchement; celle-là n’en a pas envie. (Neither Georgette nor Estelle will be coming. The latter had something come up; the former just doesn’t feel like it.)
For the low-down on this kind of pronoun, see the Language File The Definite Demonstrative Pronoun.
Relative pronouns have antecedents:
- Je ne vois pas le monsieur avec qui vous vous êtes disputé. (I don’t see the gentleman with whom you argued.)
Even possessive adjectives have antecedents!
- As-tu vu Edouard? J’ai trouvé ses affaires dans la salle à manger. (Have you see Edward? I found his things in the dining room.)
Only indefinite pronouns do not have an antecedent (that is why they are “indefinite”):
- Ordinary indefinite pronouns: ce, cela (ça), ceci
- Indefinite relative pronouns: ce qui, ce que