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Pronoun Definition: Pronouns are used in place of a specific noun. In good writing, you do not want to keep writing the name of the noun over and over again. "My car broke down so I took my car it to the mechanic for him to fix my car it." Instead of writing "my car" over and over, we use the pronoun "it." This is how we use a pronoun to replace the noun. Similarly, for people we use "he" or "she."

But a pronoun can change depending on whether it is the subject of the verb or the object of the verb. This makes the difference between "I hit the ball" and "the ball hit me." Both "I" and "me" are pronouns that represent me, but which one is used depends on who did the action.

See the page on Types of Pronouns for details on "possessive pronouns." A related category is Possessive Adjectives: my, your, his, hers, its, their, our. These words are not really pronouns, they are adjectives. See the page on Types of Adjectives. Notice that possessive adjectives must be followed by a noun. Pronouns replace a nouns. An adjective provides more information about a noun. So when I say "my house" the word "my" tells you which house, just like the word "blue" does in "blue house." So the word "my" is an adjective. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that although possessive nouns use an apostrophe, possessive adjectives and possessive ponouns NEVER use an apostrophe. There is no your's, her's or their's!

Prounoun Use

Subject
Pronoun

Object
Pronoun

First Person Singular

I

me

Second Person Singular

you

you

Third Person Singular

he, she, it

him, her, it

First Person Plural

we

us

Second Person Plural

you

you

Third Person Plural

they

them

Relative or Interrogative

who

whom

Nominative (subject) Case for Pronouns

This is the case used for the subject of a sentence. It's pretty easy to know your write "I hit the ball," not "Me hit the ball," but one common question I get is goes like this: "which is correct: She is richer than I OR She is richer than me." This is one of many examples where informal and formal English differ. The reason is that there is an assumed (not written) verb after the second pronoun. If we insert the missing verb, it is clear the formal version is correct: She is richer than I (am). When we use it as a comparison, the rule is the same: She is happier than they (are.)

We use the pronoun "who" even if there are elements between it and its verb. Example: "I will choose the one who I think makes the best candidate." (Who is the subject of makes.) Notice that if the subject is plural, the agreement shows more clearly: "I will choose the ones who I think make the best candidates."

We also use the nominative case for any pronoun that is the subject of a clause even when that clause is the object of another subject. Sounds confusing? OK, here's an example: "I am looking for the guy who broke into my house." (Who is the subject of broke. "The guy who broke into my house" is the object of looking.) If you are wondering about who and whom, check out this page on who and whom.

OK, and here's one more that bugs me because it just seems wrong to me. we use the nominative case of the personal pronoun after forms of the verb "to be". This means it's right to answer "This is he" when someone asks for you on the telephone. Ugh. I always thought the subject was "it" and therefore the object is "me."

We also use the nominative for a pronoun following the infinitive form of the verb "to be" when the infinitive has no expressed subject. This means we write "I would not want to be he" and we all thought it was "I wouldn't want to be him." That's why most of us just don't speak no good English.

Objective Case for Pronouns

We use the objective case for the object of a verb, verbal or preposition. (A verbal is a verb that acts like a noun--more later.)
1. Object of a verb: I hit him. Whom did you hit?
2. Object of a verbal: Robbing them is my favourite activity. (Them is the object of the verbal Robbing.)
3. Object of a preposition: Three of them were arrested. (Them is the object of the preposition of.)

For compound subjects and objects things don't change. A common error is to use "I" with a compound obect. "The boss asked Tom and I to complete the audit." This is incorrect. Notice that if you were alone, you would write "The boss asked me to complete the audit." Just because Tom is involved, doesn't change the correct use of the object pronoun. The correct sentence should be "The boss asked Tom and me to complete the audit."

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