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5.4 Pronouns

Learning Objectives

  1. Recognize subject and object pronouns.
  2. Identify possessive pronouns.
  3. Determine common pronoun errors.

A pronounA word that substitutes for a noun; for example, I, you, he, she, it, we, or they. is a word that can be used in place of the noun. We use pronouns so we do not have to repeat words. For example, imagine writing the following sentence: Afrah put her scarf on because Afrah was cold. The sentence sounds a bit strange because Afrah is named twice; however, if you use a pronoun, the sentence will be shorter and less repetitive. You might rewrite the sentence to something similar to the following: Afrah put her scarf on because she was cold. She refers to Afrah, so you do not have to write the name twice.

Types of Pronouns

Subject pronounsA pronoun that functions as the subject in a sentence; the “who” and the “what” the sentence is about. are often the subject of a sentence—“who” and “what” the sentence is about.

Sentence: She loves the desserts in France.

She is the subject.

Sentence: By lunch time, they were hungry.

They is the subject.

Object pronounsPronoun that functions as the object of a verb or a preposition; the “who” or “what” acted upon. are often the object of the verb— “who” or “what” was acted upon.

Sentence: Melanie’s thoughtfulness touched him.

Him is the object of the verb touched.

Sentence: We lifted it.

It is the object of the verb lifted.

Tip

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 pronounA pronoun that shows possession or ownership..

Sentence: The teacher took her apple and left.

The pronoun her shows the teacher owns the apple.

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 5.3 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 1

On a separate sheet of paper, 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.

Correct: She went to work earlier than usual.

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

Exercise 2

On a separate sheet of paper, 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 pronounA type of pronoun that helps combine two sentences. 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 or that.

Sentence: A relative pronoun is a type of pronoun.

The subject of this sentence is a relative pronoun. The clause is a type of pronoun gives some information about the subject.

The relative pronoun that may be added to give more details to the subject.

Sentence using a relative pronoun: A relative pronoun is a type of pronoun that helps connect details to the subject of the sentence.

Tip

Remember the following uses of relative pronouns:

  • Who, whom, and whose refer only to people.
  • Which refers to things.
  • That refers to people or things.

The following examples show how a relative pronoun may be used to connect two sentences and to connect details to the subject.

Sentence 1: Gossip is a form of communication.

Sentence 2: It is a waste of time and energy.

Combination of 1 and 2: Gossip is a form of communication that is a waste of time and energy.

Notice how the relative pronoun that replaces the subject it in sentence 2.

That is called a relative pronoun because it connects the details (is a waste of time and energy) to the subject (Gossip).

Sentence 1: My grandmother is eighty years old.

Sentence 2: She collects seashells.

Combination of 1 and 2: My grandmother, who is eighty years old, collects seashells.

Notice how the relative pronoun who replaces the subject she in sentence 2.

Who is called a relative pronoun because it connects the details (is eighty years old) to the subject (My grandmother).

Exercise 3

On a separate sheet of paper, 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 4

On a separate sheet of paper, 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.

Writing Application

Proofread a piece of your writing for the types of pronoun errors discussed in this section. Correct any errors you come across.