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Pronouns

Apronountakes the place of a noun. Like nouns, pronouns can refer to people, places, things, ideas, or abstractions. If a noun includes other words such as articles or modifiers, the pronoun takes the place of all those words closely associated with the noun.

  • Maria went shopping.
  • She went shopping.
  • Mrs. Yamato’s children found the lost dog.
  • They found it.

There are several varieties of pronouns:

  • Personal (I, she, them, we, and so on)
  • Relative (that, who, whom, which)
  • Demonstrative (this, these, that, those)
  • Possessive (mine, yours, his)
  • Reflexive and Intensive (myself, himself, themselves, and so on)
  • Reciprocal (each other, one another)
  • Indefinite (someone, anybody, one, each, all, and so on)
  • Interrogative (who, whose, which)

Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns generally take the place of nouns that refer to people, although the third-person neutral pronoun it usually refers to things or animals. Personal pronouns can have two cases: nominative or objective. Nominative case is used when the pronoun is the subject of a verb or is a subject complement, a noun or pronoun that follows a form of the verb to be and describes or explains the subject of the verb. Objective case is used when the pronoun is the object of a verb or a preposition.

The following table shows nominative and objective case forms of personal pronouns, both singular and plural.

Nominative singular/pluralObjective singular/plural
I / weme / us
you / youyou / you
he, she, it / theyhim, her, it / them

Some examples of nominative personal pronouns include:

  • She was an excellent dancer.
  • If you want to go on the field trip, then you need to tell Mrs. Martin.
  • Are they prepared to do the job?

Some examples of objective personal pronouns include:

  • The teacher gave us a new project.
  • I asked them to help me paint the house.
  • The doctor told him to get more exercise.

Common Pitfall: Multiple Pronouns and What Case to Use

Many people become confused about which case to use when more than one pronoun is involved (example: she and I, him and me). Many students, believing that nominative pronouns sound more “correct,” are reluctant to use objective pronouns in such situations. Try splitting the sentence into two parts to determine the correct case for the pronoun.

  • She/Her and I/me went shopping.
  • She went shopping. I went shopping.
  • Her went shopping. Me went shopping.
  • She and went shopping. (She and are the subjects of the verb went; therefore they must be in the nominative case.)
  • Miguel went to the movies with he/him and I/me.
  • Miguel went with he. Miguel went with I.
  • Miguel went with him. Miguel went with me.
  • Miguel went to the movies with him and me. (Him and me are the objects of the preposition with; therefore they must be in the objective case.)

Common Pitfall: “We” and “Us” as Appositives

The personal pronouns we and us are sometimes used as appositives, which restate or explain a noun in the sentence.

  • We sophomores will host the school banquet on Saturday.
  • Sometimes the weather is kind to us farmers.

In informal, spoken English, the objective us is commonly used as the appositive, but in formal writing, we and us must still be in the proper case when they are used as appositives.

  • Use: We girls are going skiing next weekend.
  • Not: Us girls are going skiing next weekend. (Girls is the subject of the sentence, so its appositive must be in the nominative case.)

Notice that unlike noun appositives, pronoun appositives are not set off by commas.

Common Pitfall: Pronouns as Complements (or “It is I!”)

When a personal pronoun acts as a subject complement (following a form of the verb “to be”), it should be in the nominative case. However, in spoken English and in some informal writing, the objective form of the pronoun is used instead.

  • Who is there? It’s me!
  • That is them over there.

In formal writing, be sure to use the nominative case.

  • Who is there? It is I!
  • That is they over there.

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