A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun. A pronoun includes the following words: I, me, he, she, you, it, they, few, many, someone, everybody. (There are many others.)
For example, instead of using “Peter,” we could use “he.” And instead of “Nan,” we could use “she.”
There are eight main types of pronouns, which we will cover over a series of articles:
Although pronouns rarely cause problems in conversations, they can be very confusing and tricky on standardized exams that deal with formal written English. (We will address this issue in a future article.)
Personal pronouns are useful when we don't want to repeat the name of a person over and over again. For instance, instead of constantly saying “Henry,” I would use “I” or “me” every now and then to avoid sounding repetitive (not to mention a little narcissistic).
Here are the personal pronouns.
As you can see from the last two columns, we have subject pronouns and object pronouns. Let’s look at them for a second.
Subject pronouns are used when the pronoun is the subject of the sentence, i.e., it is performing the action of the verb.
Here are a few examples of sentences in which the pronoun is performing the action:
- I woke up early yesterday.
- When I went to school, I was greeted by one of my friends.
- She was ordering coffee at the cafeteria.
- Outside, we sat and talked about our classes, friends, and school life.
Object pronouns are used when the pronoun receives the action of the verb. Let’s take the above examples and change them so that the previous subjects become recipients of the action:
- My alarm clock woke me up early yesterday.
- At school, one of my friends greeted me.
- I saw her ordering a cup of coffee in the cafeteria.
- People saw us sitting outside, talking about our classes, friends, and school life.
“You and I” vs. “You and Me”
This would be the perfect place to talk about when “you and I” is right and when “you and me” is right. Fortunately, we have already written a very popular article about it on Medium. So, rather than copying and pasting it here, here’s the link.
When we are talking about a single nonliving thing, we almost always use it. There are, however, a few exceptions to this rule. We can refer to pets by its gender. Some people treat ships, cars, and other vehicles, as well as countries as a female entity and use she or her.
- Our dog Chewie loves to sleep on his bed.
- America has fought many wars during her relatively short history.
- When Peter bought his first car, he made sure that she always “drank” premium petrol.
- The Titanic sank on her maiden voyage.
We have different ways to express a single person whose gender is either unknown or unimportant:
- Anyone who doesn’t bring his or her ticket to the theater will not be allowed to enter.
- If a student fails a quiz, then he or she must stay after school and study.
- A person who refuses to do one’s own work will be punished.
Here is where it gets tricky:
- Anyone how doesn’t bring their ticket to the theater will not be allowed to enter.
- If a student fails a quiz, then they must stay after school and study.
We call that the singular they. In everyday writing, including newspapers and magazines, the singular they is not only accepted but actually preferred to constantly using he or she and his or her.
We’re almost done. We use it to introduce a remark and to talk about the weather, temperature, time, and distance:
- It is vital that you study for tomorrow’s exam.
- Is it necessary to bring money to the party?
- It didn’t take long for Chewie to remember that his owners were gone.
- It’s hard to own a dog sometimes, especially while traveling overseas.
- It is going to be hot all week, so be sure to drink plenty of water.
- It’s about 350 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
- I love to stand outside when it rains.
This concludes our first lesson on pronouns. This series will continue next week.