05 January, 2009

Lecture Notes: Pronouns

A pronoun is a word that is used in place of a noun or another pronoun. Like a noun, a pronoun can refer to a person, place, thing, or idea. The word that a pronoun refers to is called its antecedent.

Personal Pronouns

Pronouns such as we, I, she, them, and it are called personal pronouns. Personal pronouns have a variety of forms to indicate different persons, numbers, and cases.

Person and Number

There are first-person, second-person, and third-person personal pronouns, each having both singular and plural forms.


Each personal pronoun forms has three cases: subject, object, and possessive. Which form to use depends on the pronoun’s function in a sentence.

The following chart shows all the forms of the personal pronouns:

Subject Pronouns

A subject pronoun is used as the subject of a sentence or as a predicate pronoun after a linking verb.

Pronouns as Subjects

Use a subject pronoun when the pronoun is a subject or part of a compound subject.

  • The Apollo program was a great success. It got us to the moon. (It, referring to The
    Apollo program, is the subject of the sentence.)

A pronoun can be part of a compound subject.

  • You and I both think we should go on to Mars.

Predicate Pronouns

A predicate pronoun follows a linking verb and identifies the subject. Use the subject case for predicate pronouns.

Remember, the most common linking verbs are forms of the verb be, including is, am, are, was, were, has been, have been, can be, will be, could be, and should be.

Object Pronouns

An object pronoun is used as a direct object, an indirect object, or an object of a preposition.

Direct Object The pronoun receives the action of a verb and answers the question whom or what.

Indirect Object The pronoun tells to whom or what or for whom or what an action is performed.

Object of a Preposition The pronoun follows a preposition (such as to, from, for, against, by, or about).
Always use object pronouns after the preposition between.

  • It’s a contest between him and me. (NOT between he and I.)

Possessive Pronouns
A possessive pronoun is a personal pronoun used to show ownership or relationship.

The possessive pronouns my, your, her, his, its, our, and their come before nouns.

The possessive pronouns mine, ours, yours, his, hers, its, and theirs can stand alone in a sentence.

  • This cat is mine. That cat is his.

  • Is the striped cat yours? No, mine is all black.

  • What color is his? Hers hasn’t come home yet.

Possessive Pronouns and Contractions
Some possessive pronouns sound like contractions (its/it’s, your/you’re, their/they’re). Because these pairs sound alike, writers often confuse possessive pronouns and contractions.
Remember, a possessive pronoun never has an apostrophe. A contraction, however, always has an apostrophe. The apostrophe shows where a letter or letters have been left out in a combination of two words.