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5.4: Pronouns

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    Subject, Object, and Possessive Pronouns

    Subject pronouns are often the subject of a sentence—who or what the sentence is about.

    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\):

    Sentence: She loves the desserts in France.

    She is the subject.

    Example \(\PageIndex{2}\):

    Sentence: By lunch time, they were hungry.

    They is the subject.

    Object pronouns are often the object of the verb— who or what was acted upon.

    Example \(\PageIndex{3}\):

    Sentence: Melanie’s thoughtfulness touched him.

    Him is the object of the verb touched.

    Example \(\PageIndex{4}\):

    Sentence: We lifted it.

    It is the object of the verb lifted.

    The masculine subject pronoun is he, and the masculine object pronoun is him. The feminine subject pronoun is she, and the feminine object pronoun is her.

    A pronoun that shows possession or ownership is called a possessive pronoun.

    Example \(\PageIndex{5}\):

    Sentence: The teacher took her apple and left.

    The pronoun her shows the teacher owns the apple.

    Example \(\PageIndex{6}\):

    Sentence: The hikers spotted their guide on the trail.

    The pronoun their shows the hikers follow the guide who was assigned to the hikers.

    Table of Pronouns
    Subject Pronouns I, you, he, she, it, we, they
    Object Pronouns me, you, him, her, it, us, them
    Possessive Pronouns my (mine), your(s), his, hers, its, our(s), their(s)

    Exercise 24

    Complete the following sentences by circling the correct pronoun.

    1. Unfortunately, the house was too expensive for (we, us, they).
    2. I completed (mine, my, your) research paper, and she completed (his, hers, theirs).
    3. My dog Buster is old, but (he, it, them) is very playful.
    4. That ring belongs to my father, so it is (hers, his, theirs).
    5. I cannot find my textbook, so I think (they, it, he) is lost.

    Common Pronoun Errors

    English language learners often make the same errors when using pronouns. The following examples illustrate common errors.

    Incorrect: Me and Daniela went to the restaurant for lunch.

    This sentence is incorrect because an object pronoun (me) is used instead of a subject pronoun.

    Correct: Daniela and I went to the restaurant for lunch.

    This sentence is now correct because a subject pronoun (I) is used.

    Incorrect: Mark put her grocery bag on the counter.

    This sentence is incorrect because the pronoun her refers to a female, and Mark is a male.

    Correct: Mark put his grocery bag on the counter.

    This sentence is now correct because the male pronoun his refers to the male person, Mark.

    Incorrect: The woman she went to work earlier than usual.

    This sentence is incorrect because the subject the woman is repeated by the pronoun she.

    Correct: The woman went to work earlier than usual. (Or) She went to work earlier than usual.

    These sentences are now correct because the unnecessary repeated subject has been removed.

    Exercise 25

    Correct the following sentences that have pronoun errors. If the sentence is correct as it is, write OK.

    1. Us are going to the county fair this weekend.
    2. Steven did not want to see a movie because she had a headache.
    3. The teacher congratulated Maria and me.
    4. The eighth grade students they were all behaving mysteriously well.
    5. Derrick and he received the best grade on the grammar test.

    Relative Pronouns

    A relative pronoun is a type of pronoun that helps connect details to the subject of the sentence and may often combine two shorter sentences. The relative pronouns are who, whom, whose, which, that, where. On how they are used, see Relative Pronouns and Adjective Clauses.

    First-, Second-, and Third-person Pronouns
      Singular Form Plural Form
    First Person I am. We are.
    Second Person You are. You are.
    Third Person He/She/It is. They are.

    Exercise 26

    Complete the following sentences by selecting the correct relative pronoun.

    1. He showed me a photo (who, that) upset me.
    2. Soccer is a fast moving game (who, that) has many fans worldwide.
    3. Juan is a man (which, who) has high standards for everything.
    4. Jamaica is a beautiful country (that, who) I would like to visit next year.
    5. My mother only eats bananas (who, that) are green.

    Exercise 27

    Combine the two sentences into one sentence using a relative pronoun.

    1. Jeff is a dependable person. He will never let you down.
    2. I rode a roller coaster. It was scary.
    3. At the beach, I always dig my feet into the sand. It protects them from the hot sun.
    4. Jackie is trying not to use so many plastic products. They are not good for the environment.
    5. My Aunt Sherry is teaching me how to drive. She has never been in accident or gotten a ticket.

    key takeaways

    • A pronoun is used in place of a noun. There are several types of pronouns, including subject and object pronouns, possessive pronouns, and relative pronouns.
    • Subject pronouns are the “who” and “what” the sentence is about. Object pronouns are the “who” and “what” that receives the action. A possessive pronoun is a pronoun showing ownership.
    • Common pronoun errors include mixing up subject, object, and gender pronouns, and repeating the subject of a sentence with a pronoun. Relative pronouns help combine two separate sentences.

    Pronouns and Antecedents

    If there were no pronouns, all types of writing would be quite tedious to read. We would soon be frustrated by reading sentences like “Bob said that Bob was tired or Christina told the class that Christina received an A.” Pronouns help a writer avoid constant repetition. Knowing just how pronouns work is an important aspect of clear and concise writing.

    Pronoun Agreement

    A pronoun is a word that takes the place of (or refers back to) a noun or another pronoun. The word or words a pronoun refers to is called the antecedent of the pronoun.

    Example \(\PageIndex{7}\):

    1. Lani complained that she was exhausted.

    She refers to Lani. Lani is the antecedent of she.

    1. Jeremy left the party early, so I did not see him until Monday at work.

    Him refers to Jeremy. Jeremy is the antecedent of him.

    1. Crina and Rosalie have been best friends ever since they were freshman in high school.

    They refers to Crina and Rosalie. Crina and Rosalie is the antecedent of they.

    Pronoun agreement errors occur when the pronoun and the antecedent do not match or agree with each other. There are several types of pronoun agreement.

    Agreement in Number

    If the pronoun takes the place of or refers to a singular noun, the pronoun must also be singular. 

    Agreement in Person
      Singular Pronouns Plural Pronouns
    First Person I me my (mine) we us our (ours)
    Second Person you you your (yours) you you your (your)
    Third Person he, she, it him, her, it his, her, its they them their (theirs)

    If you use a consistent person, your reader is less likely to be confused.

    Indefinite Pronouns and Agreement

    Indefinite pronouns do not refer to a specific person or thing and are usually singular. Note that a pronoun that refers to an indefinite singular pronoun should also be singular. Note: The pronoun “they” is often used for gender neutrality.

    Common Indefinite Pronouns
    all each one few nothing several
    any each other many one some
    anybody either neither one another somebody
    anything everybody nobody oneself someone
    both everyone none other something
    each everything no one others anyone

    Collective Nouns

    Collective nouns suggest more than one person but are usually considered singular.

    Common Collective Nouns
    audience faculty public
    band family school
    class government society
    committee group team
    company Jury tribe

    Exercise 28

    Complete the following sentences by selecting the correct pronoun. Then circle the noun the pronoun replaces.

    1. In the current economy, nobody wants to waste ________ money on frivolous things.
    2. If anybody chooses to go to medical school, ________ must be prepared to work long hours.
    3. The plumbing crew did ________ best to repair the broken pipes before the next ice storm.
    4. If someone is rude to you, try giving ________ a smile in return.
    5. My family has ________ faults, but I still love them no matter what.
    6. The school of education plans to train ________ students to be literacy tutors.
    7. The commencement speaker said that each student has a responsibility toward ________.
    8. My mother’s singing group has ________ rehearsals on Thursday evenings.
    9. No one should suffer ________ pains alone.
    10. I thought the flock of birds lost ________ way in the storm.

    Who vs. Whom

    Who or whoever is always the subject of a verb. Use who or whoever when the pronoun performs the action indicated by the verb.

    Example \(\PageIndex{8}\):

    Who won the marathon last Tuesday?

    I wonder who came up with that terrible idea!

    On the other hand, whom and whomever serve as objects. They are used when the pronoun does not perform an action. Use whom or whomever when the pronoun is the direct object of a verb or the object of a preposition.

    Example \(\PageIndex{9}\):

    Whom did Frank marry the third time? (direct object of verb)

    From whom did you buy that old record player? (object of preposition)

    tip

    If you are having trouble deciding when to use who and whom, try this trick. Take the following sentence: Who/Whom do I consider my best friend? Reorder the sentence in your head, using either he or him in place of who or whom. I consider him my best friend. I consider he my best friend. Which sentence sounds better? The first one, of course. So the trick is, if you can use him, you should use whom.

    Exercise 29

    Complete the following sentences by adding who or whom.

    1. ________ hit the home run?
    2. I remember ________ won the Academy Award for Best Actor last year.
    3. To ________ is the letter addressed?
    4. I have no idea ________ left the iron on, but I am going to find out.
    5. ________ are you going to recommend for the internship?
    6. With ________ are you going to Hawaii?
    7. No one knew ________ the famous actor was.
    8. ________ in the office knows how to fix the copy machine?
    9. From ________ did you get the concert tickets?
    10. No one knew ________ ate the cake mom was saving.

    key takeaways

    • Pronouns and their antecedents need to agree in number and person.
    • Most indefinite pronouns are singular.
    • Pronouns can function as subjects or objects.
    • Subject pronouns are never used as objects, and object pronouns are never used as subjects.
    • Who serves as a subject of a verb.
    • Whom serves as an object of a sentence (direct object) or the object of a preposition.
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