Grammar Tips: Pronouns are easy!

7 Jan

Welcome back, students!

Today, we are going to discuss pronouns. Pronouns are incredibly common in writing and in speech, but it can be tricky to determine which pronoun is suitable for a particular situation. As discussed in a previous blog post on First, Second, and Third Person, there are a variety of pronouns and you want to choose the proper pronoun that appropriately reflects both your subject and your tone. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to remember different pronouns and some of their uses! Check it out!

As the song shows us, pronouns are easy!

“So I know it’s like a noun, ’cause noun is in the name,

but it’s different than a noun, not exactly the same,

it’s a word that sneaks up, takes the place of a noun”

Pronouns are used to take the place of a noun (and we know that a noun is a person, place, or thing). Pronouns can be grouped according to person (first, second, or third), and there are a variety of options that we can use. A few are mentioned in the song:

“Him, her, I, he, and she, you, us, this, those, that, and we”

Pronouns can be divided into different categories: personal, relative, demonstrative, indefinite, reflexive, interrogative, possessive, and subject/object.

Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns take the place of common and proper nouns. Him, Her, He, and She are all third person pronouns. Other third person pronouns include It, They, and Them. I, us, and we are first person pronouns. Me is an additional first person pronoun. You is a second person pronoun. It is the only second person pronouns.

As we know, ersonal pronouns take the place of common and proper nouns, like names. Let’s take a look:

“Jess had ten cents, yeah she had a dime. ‘She’ is the pronoun I used that time.”

In this example, the pronoun “she” is replacing the proper noun Jess, the girl’s name. Since Jess is a person other than ourself, and we are referring to her in the third person, we would use a third person pronoun in place of her name. Third person pronouns can also be used with things that are being written or spoken about. For example:

“My friend’s shoes were blue, yeah, they were blue. ‘They’ was the pronoun that I just used.”

Here, we are talking about “my friend’s shoes”, which are things. We can replace “my friend’s shoes” with “they” in order to use the proper pronoun.

Relative Pronouns 

That is a relative pronoun. Other relative pronouns include Which, Who, Whom, Whose, Whichever, Whoever, and Whomever. Relative pronouns relate subordinate clauses to the rest of the sentence. For example:

“The person who called my name is my best friend.”

In this case, the pronoun “who” is used to show “the person” which “who called my name” modifies. Relative pronouns can refer to singular or plural items, and there is no distinction between masculine and feminine.

Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns are used to represent a thing or things. They are divided into two categories based on the proximity of the item (nearby or far away) and there are different demonstrative pronouns for singular and plural things.

  • Things that are nearby: This (singular), These (plural)
  • Things that are far away: That (singular), Those (plural)

For example:

“This tastes good.” Or “Those were the days!”

In the first example, “this” refers to an item that is singular and in close proximity. In our second example the referenced days occurred in the past, and they are plural, so “those” is the appropriate pronoun.

Indefinite Pronouns 

Indefinite pronouns refer to something that is unspecified. There are three different types of indefinite pronouns: singular, plural, and singular or plural.

  • Singular: Anybody, Anyone, Anything, Each, Either, Everybody, Everyone, Everything, Neither, Nobody, No one, Nothing, One, Somebody, Someone, Something
  • Plural: Both, Few, Many, Several
  • Singular or Plural: All, Any, Most, None, Some

For example:

“She works one job during the day and another at night.”

In this case, “one” is an indefinite pronoun referring to an unspecified job.

Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are pronouns that refer back to the subject of the sentence or clause. These pronouns end in self or selves, and they are divided into first person reflexive pronouns, second person reflexive pronouns, and third person reflexive pronouns, similar to personal pronouns.

  • First person reflexive: Myself (singular), Ourselves (plural)
  • Second person reflexive: Yourself (singular), Yourselves (plural)
  • Third person reflexive: Himself, Herself, Itself (singular), Themselves (plural)

For example:

“Lisa saw herself reflected in his eyes.”

Here, the reflexive pronoun “herself” refers back to the subject of the sentence, Lisa.

Interrogative Pronouns 

Interrogative pronouns are used to ask a question. Who, What, Which, Whom, and Whose are all interrogative pronouns. Who, Whom, and sometimes Which refer to people. What and Which refer to inanimate objects and animals.

For example:

“Who signed the Declaration of Independence?”

In the above example, the pronoun “who” refers to the person or persons responsible for signing the Declaration of Independence, and the speaker is clearly asking a question.

Possessive Pronouns 

Possessive pronouns are used to show ownership. There are singular and plural pronouns, and they can be categorized according to those used before nouns, and those used alone.

  • Used Alone: Mine, Yours, His, Hers (singular); Ours, Yours, Theirs (plural)
  • Used Before Nouns: My, Your, His, Her, Its (singular); Our, Your, Their (plural)

For example:

“I saw his book on your table.”

In this case, “his” indicates the person whose book it is (and book is a noun), and “your” indicates the person who owns the table (which is also a noun).

Subject & Object Pronouns 

Subject pronouns can be singular or plural, and they tell us whom or what the sentence is about. Object pronouns can also be singular or plural, and they are used as direct objects, indirect objects, or objects of prepositions.

  • Subject pronouns: I, You, She, He, It (singular); We, You, They (plural)
  • Object pronouns: Me, You, Him, Her, It (singular); Us, You, Them (plural)

For example:

“His friends left for Mexico on Monday. The boy traveled with them.”

In this case, “them” is a pronoun referring to the boy’s friends. The object “friends” is replaced with the pronoun “them”.

Clearly, pronouns are complicated! There are many different options to choose from, and many different situations where pronouns can be used. Think you have a good handle on your pronoun usage? Try this quiz! If you need additional help with pronoun usage or any other writing concern, please feel free to schedule an appointment in the Writing Center!

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3 Responses to “Grammar Tips: Pronouns are easy!”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Back to the Basics: How to Recognize Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives, and Adverbs | The Christ College Writing Center - June 24, 2015

    […] order to understand something like Subject/Verb Agreement, the proper way to use Pronouns, or even Identifying and Correcting Sentence Fragments, it is important to fully master some of the […]

  2. Grammar Tips: Winter Review! | The Christ College Writing Center - December 9, 2015

    […] Pronouns […]

  3. Grammar Tips: Prepositions | The Christ College Writing Center - February 16, 2016

    […] We’ve already discussed adjectives, conjunctions, nouns, verbs, and adverbs, and pronouns, but what about prepositions? What is a preposition? Well, let’s find […]

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