In a previous article we discussed the subject of nouns. A noun is used to give a name to a thing, a person, place or animal. Pronouns are very handy also, just consider the below piece of writing:
David walked out of the house. Then David got into David's car, and David realised David did not have David's keys.
We see how the use of the name 'David' becomes repetitive and also slightly confusing even though the above paragraph is only two sentences long. This is where pronouns become so helpful, particularly for writers of novels. Let's make some changes to the paragraph using a few pronouns:
David walked out of the house. Then he got into his car, and he realised he did not have his keys.
This is the main purpose of pronouns: to avoid repetition and make your writing clear. The very word 'pronoun' is composed of 'pro-' meaning 'in favour of' and 'noun'. This shows us that a pronoun was created to help replace nouns where needed.
Start by using a pronoun correctly
In the piece of writing I mentioned earlier, you will notice I used the person's name 'David' in the very first sentence. You must always first name the person, thing, place or animal before you start to substitute it with pronouns. Your paragraph, when introducing the item first, should clearly name the person before applying pronouns throughout the paragraph.
In an article on sentences, I clearly labelled who the subject and object of a sentence were. Please also see the below sentence:
- David threw a ball to the dog.
David is the subject of the sentence as he is the thing which is creating an action. The dog is the object of the sentence as he is the thing on the receiving end of the action which is a ball that has been thrown.
Personal pronouns for the subject of a sentence can include I, you, he, she, it, we and they.
'I' is the only pronoun to be spelt with a capital letter. Let's replace the subject of the sentence, David, with a personal pronoun:
- I threw a ball to the dog.
When using pronouns for the object of a sentence, the most often used ones are: me, you, him, her, us and them.
Now let's replace the object of our sentence with a personal pronoun:
- David threw a ball to him.
When you want to show who an object or place belongs to, you need to use a possessive pronoun.
You can use the following words as possessive pronouns: yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs and mine.
Below are some example sentences which show the use of possessive pronouns:
- Both of the books are his.
- That phone is not yours, it is mine.
- The chocolate cake is ours to eat.
These pronouns are used to describe further a noun or pronoun mentioned at the beginning of a sentence. Please take note of these two very short sentences below:
- David was the man.
- The building.
In the first sentence, David is the subject of the sentence. As you may notice, the sentence is far too short and needs more description. When giving more description to the subject of a sentence, we need to use the relative pronoun 'who':
- David was the man who brought the whisky.
- He was a friend who said he would help.
In the second short sentence, so short it could be considered a sentence fragment, 'building' is a common noun. When using a common name, you must use the relative pronouns 'that' or 'which':
- The building which is at the top of the street is fourteen storeys tall.
- The building that was built thirty years ago is scheduled for demolition.
Consider reflexive pronouns to be the selfish pronouns. This is because they describe something that a person or thing is doing for themselves or to themselves. Reflexive pronouns cannot be used without mentioning the noun or pronoun they are representing.
Reflexive pronouns include: yourself, himself, herself, themselves, ourselves and myself.
Please see below:
- I cooked all of the dinner myself.
- They helped themselves to my bottle of rum.
- David bought himself a new PlayStation.
These pronouns can act as both subjects or objects in a sentence. They include the words: these, those, that and this:
- Those are my shoes.
- This is my curry.
- These are going to be replaced tomorrow.
In English grammar, whenever you see the word 'interrogative' simply think of an interrogation as the word means to ask questions. Interrogative pronouns help you to ask questions using the words: who, whom, what, which and whose:
- Whose car is that across the street?
- Which flavour of ice cream would you like?
- What time did you get home last night?
When speaking, we cannot always be sure about the person or thing we are talking about. When you can't remember or don't know the name of a person or place, indefinite pronouns are very helpful.
There are a lot of indefinite pronouns but some of the most popular ones are: anything, someone, many and no one.
Please see the following example sentences for their use:
- Was there anything left to eat in the fridge?
- Someone will find us, I'm sure of it.
- No one could eat a hamburger that tasted so bad.
Look like a pro with pronouns
I'm going to give you an insight into a personal pronoun mistake which a lot of native English speakers make. It concerns the personal pronouns 'me' and 'I'.
I often hear the following sentences in conversation which are grammatically incorrect:
- Me and my mother went to McDonald's for a coffee.
- Me sat down and me enjoyed the film.
- It was a very traumatic experience for Jane and I.
The easiest way to get this grammar rule right is to use 'I ' if you are the subject of a sentence. If you are the object of a sentence try to use 'me'. The part of this rule to note is that if the pronoun follows a preposition, the personal pronoun 'me' needs to be used for the object. Always remember English people are polite and put others before them, even in sentences:
- David and I bought the car.
- I sat down and really enjoyed the movie.
- It was a great vacation for Jane and me.
Hero image by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash