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Pronoun Usage: Grammar Guide

Updated on July 25, 2013

Personal Pronouns

  • I
  • You
  • He
  • She
  • It
  • We
  • You
  • They

What is a Pronoun?

A pronoun takes the place of a noun or refers back to that noun. It is important to use the correct pronoun so your reader does not become confused.

  • Monique planned on running a 5K race because she wanted to support Multiple Sclerosis. ("She" is the pronoun used for the noun Monique.)

  • Monique planned on running a 5K race because Monique wanted to support Multiple Sclerosis. (In this sentence the redundancy of her name makes the sentence awkward.)

Reflexive Pronouns

  • Myself
  • Yourself
  • Himself
  • Herself
  • Itself
  • Ourselves
  • Yourselves
  • Themselves

Possessive Pronouns

  • Mine
  • Yours
  • His
  • Hers
  • Its
  • Ours
  • Yours
  • Theirs

Prounous should ALWAYS agree in number.

It is important for your pronouns to always correctly represent your noun or nouns. Thus, they should agree in number so that your reader does not become confused.

  1. The girl was the best in her class because she studied the hardest. (The pronoun "she" represents the singular girl.)
  2. The boys won the English contest because they wrote the best stories. (The pronoun "they" represents the plural boys.)

REMEMBER: Anyone, everybody, anybody, neither, each, nobody, someone, and a person are all singular!

  1. Everybody brought a treat for his or her mother. (The pronoun "his or her" represents the singular everybody.)
  2. Neither of the boys called his father after the competition. (The pronoun "his" represents the singular neither.)

Pronouns should ALWAYS agree in the correct person.

If you are writing in the first person (I) then your pronoun should be the first person. If you are writing in the second person (you) then your pronoun should agree. If you are writing in the third person (he, she, it, they) then your pronoun should agree.

  1. When a student writes an essay, he or she should use spellcheck.

  2. When a student writes an essay, you should use spellcheck. (This is INCORRECT.)

Thoughts, Questions or Comments?

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    • profile image

      Shane 

      6 years ago

      What does it mean when you are asked to, Revise the sentences to eliminate errors in pronoun use?

    • profile image

      francis 

      8 years ago

      when,who are interrogative pronouns.do we agree 'where'is a pronoun.

    • profile image

      morissen 

      8 years ago

      What about referral to a company? Is that plural or singular? e.g. Ford makes good cars sometimes but they don't always make a reliable car.

    • profile image

      Jonathon VS 

      11 years ago

      Hi, Robin! Another great grammar article!

      I learned pronouns somewhat differently from the way you explain them. According to my understanding, personal pronouns are broken up into three cases: nominative (subjective) case, objective case, and possessive case. (I'm sorry I can't show this in table form, but I've indicated the number of the pronoun [e.g. 1 means first-person] and the S or P indicates whether the pronoun is singular or plural).

      Nominative Case I (1-S); We (1-P); You (2-S & 2-P); He, She, and It (3-S); They (3-P)

      Objective CaseMe (1-S); Us (1-P); You (2-S & 2-P); Him, Her, and It (3-S); Them (3-P)

      Possessive CaseMine (1-S); Ours (1-P); Yours (2-S & 2-P); His, Hers, and Its (3-S); Theirs (3-P)

      Nominative case pronouns are so named because they can only be used as subjects or predicate nominatives (a.k.a. predicate nouns) in a sentence. Objective pronouns are so named because they can only be used as direct objects, indirect objects, objects of prepositions, or objective complements in a sentence. Obviously possessive case pronouns refer to possession. All three cases are considered personal pronouns because they all refer to the person.

      I've noticed in some places on the Web and even some instructional texts that "my," "your," and so forth are considered possessive pronouns. This infuriates me because there's no way to use those words as a pronoun, but only as an adjective.

      Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever used "its" as a pronoun. "That rock? The moss is its." Interesting.

      I love these posts, Robin -- you've helped me reactivate my long-dormant grammar mind! :) Keep them up!

    • Robin profile imageAUTHOR

      Robin Edmondson 

      11 years ago from San Francisco

      Hi Tiffany,

      Sorry I missed your comment. I don't know how that happened.

      Your first question: Ms.T asked the girl if the hair bow was hers. What does this question's pronoun refer to? "Hers" is the pronoun referring to the noun "girl".

      Your second question: The folder on the left side is yours. What does this question's pronoun refer to? The pronoun "yours" is referring to whomever is being asked the question.

      Hope that helps!

    • Robin profile imageAUTHOR

      Robin Edmondson 

      11 years ago from San Francisco

      Hi Valerie,

      From some research I found out that there are two possible reasons that "I" is capitalized:

      In the past, "I" was always used at the beginning of a sentence, thus it was always capitalized. Once it moved to the middle of the sentence it continued to be capitalized to avoid confusion. It was also thought that the lowercase "i" would be confused with the number one.

      Thanks for the question; I learned something, too!

    • profile image

      Valerie 

      11 years ago

      Why is I written with capital letter and the other personal pronouns not?

    • Robin profile imageAUTHOR

      Robin Edmondson 

      11 years ago from San Francisco

      Hi Sharon,

      Yes, deities, pronouns of deities, religious figures and holy books should be capitalized, e.g., God, He/Him, Buddha, Shiva, Zeus, Holy Bible. Some authors even capitalize words referring to God like "the Almighty". The key is to be consistent in your writing. ;)

    • profile image

      Sharon 

      11 years ago

      Are pronouns of Deity (He, Him, His) capitalized?

    • profile image

      Tiffany 

      11 years ago

      "Ms.T asked the girl if the hair bow was hers." what does this question's pronoun refer to?

      "The folder on the left side is yours." What does this question's pronoun refer to?

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