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Five forms of pronouns exist in English. These are subject pronouns, complement (object) pronouns, possessive pronouns, possessive adjectives and reflexive pronouns.
Subject pronouns are used in place of subject nouns. A singular pronoun is used to refer to a singular noun and a plural pronoun is used to refer to a plural noun.
he, she, it
Examples of subject pronoun use:I (subject)
am late for work.He (subject)
owns six dogs and three cats.You and I (subject)
are traveling to Las Vegas this weekend.They (subject)
were worried about making the trip in bad weather.
A subject pronoun can also be used after the verb be
in certain circumstances, such as:
It was I
who threw the ball at you. (Notice that I
is the subject of “threw the ball”)
The pronoun we
can be directly followed by a noun in order to make it clearer to whom is being referred.We parents
are very concerned about our children.
Comparative (Object) Pronouns
Comparative, or object, pronouns are used in place of the object of the verb. Again, a singular comparative pronoun is used for a singular comparative noun and a plural comparative pronoun is used for a plural comparative noun.
him, her, it
Examples of comparative (object) pronouns:
Sally emailed me (complement)
The merchant offered him (complement)
a good deal.
I wanted to find you (complement)
so we could go to the movies.
Jerry told them (complement)
that he wasn’t playing in the game tomorrow.
A sentence can also contain variations in structure, such as containing prepositions and conjunctions followed by clauses. Identifying these various parts of speech will help in determining the correct usage of pronouns.
Alex arrived at the house before (preposition) her (complement pronoun)
Alex arrived at the house before (conjunction) she (subject) left (verb)
work.she left work
: A clause is a full sentence that has been connected to the first sentence by a conjunction (connector) and, therefore, also has a subject and verb.
Possessive pronouns show possession of something by someone. They are not followed by nouns, but stand alone. Possessive pronouns replace a noun that is understood by context.NOTE
: You do NOT use apostrophes with possessive pronouns. The pronoun its
is different from the word it’s
, which is a contraction of it is
. (For information on the correct use of apostrophes, see this post -- to be added later
his, hers, its
Examples of possessive pronouns:
That is my money
That is mine
That money is mine
is slow and my car
is fast. BUT His
is slow and mine
is fast.Our class
is boring. BUT Ours
is boring.Their dresses
are too short. BUT Theirs
are too short.
Possessive adjectives are pronouns which are used as adjectives and are located directly before another noun. They do not replace a noun, but modify it.
his, hers, its
Examples of possessive adjectives:
Carol is reading her book
The bird is grooming its wings
He received his award
this morning.My homework
is due next Monday.Their names
were not called in class.
Reflective pronouns indicate that the subject of a sentence is both giving and receiving the action of the verb. They are normally located after the verb.
himself, herself, itself
: English never uses the forms hisself
. These forms are always incorrect.
Notice the difference between the comparative (object) pronoun and the reflective pronoun in the following sentences.
Mary bought her
a birthday gift. (her
= another person)
Mary bought herself
a birthday gift. (herself
Examples of reflective pronouns:
The bird bathed itself
in the water hole.
I hurt myself
The boys treated themselves
to ice cream after school.
We convinced ourselves
not to be scared at the haunted house.
from the rain by taking an umbrella.
Reflective pronouns can also be used to give emphasis, showing that the subject did the action alone (you can actually substitute the word alone
for the pronoun in this case). When used this way, it usually follows the subject, but not always. It can also be placed at the end of the sentence, often used with the word by
believe in ghosts.
must choose what you will believe.
Robert completed the complex puzzle by himself
The girls themselves
made all the plans for the party.
think the new voting law is unfair.
You will have to do the work on your car yourself
Exercise 15: Using Pronouns
Underline the correct form of the pronoun or possessive adjective in the following sentences.
1. I think (he, his, him
) is a great teacher.
2. Jason had to get (he, him, himself
) ready for school today.
3. That yellow cat over there is (me, mine, my
4. The snake bit (we, us, our
) horse on (it, it’s, its
5. Joanne and (I, me
) don’t want to go to (him, his, he
6. I can’t believe that (you, your
) mother doesn’t like (our, ours
7. John thought that (he, his, him
) could do the job by (hisself, himself
8. The cute boy speaks to (she, her
) every morning as (they, them, themselves
) walk to school.
9. All of (we, us
) boy scouts are going camping this weekend.
10. (She, Her
) scolded (she, her
) dog for ruining (it, its, it’s
) new toy.
Pronouns in Apposition
An appositive is a word, phrase, or clause in apposition – that is, it is a word placed next to another word so that the second explains the first.Martha
, my sister
, and her boyfriend
, are in town for the weekend.
In this sentence, my sister
is in apposition to Martha
is in apposition to her boyfriend
. In each case, the second word or phrase gives more information about the first word or phrase. Martha
= my sister
and her boyfriend
A pronoun of apposition must take the form of the noun it is in apposition with, whether a subject noun, or a comparative (object) noun.
The weightlifters (subject)
, John, George and I (pronoun in apposition)
, are ready for the competition.
In the above sentence, the pronoun I
is in apposition with the subject noun weightlifters
, therefore a subject pronoun is used. (I (subject)
am one of the weightlifters.)
The labor party chose three officers (object)
, Sandra, Paul and me (pronoun in apposition)
In the above sentence, the pronoun me
is in apposition with the object of the verb officers
, therefore a complement, or object pronoun, is used. (The labor party chose me (object)
as one of their officers.)
Words That Always Take Singular Verbs and Pronouns
Students of English often confuse some words as being plural. The words listed in the following chart must be followed by singular verbs and pronouns.
|any + singular noun|
|no + singular noun|
|some + singular noun|
|every + singular noun|
|each + singular noun|
are singular if they are not used with or
flu-like symptoms should go to see the nurse.Something was
bound to happen at the soccer playoffs.Nobody likes
a wise guy!Everybody has
heard about John winning the lottery.
bank card works
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