Pronoun Confusion*

Parts of Speech: Pronoun Confusion

April 4, 2019

Native English Instructor

Written by Douglas Shaw

Pronoun confusion is common with certain personal pronouns. Let us look at how the confusion is created:

“I” vs. “me”:

Use “I” as the subject noun in a sentence (person, place, or thing). Use “me” as the object noun.

e.g.

  • I went teaching English in Papua. – “I” is who the sentence is about.
  • Karen and Jeff will scuba dive in Abu Dhabi. – “Karen and Jeff” is who the sentence is about.
  • Jeff called me last night from Abu Dhabi. – “Jeff” is who the sentence is about.
  • You will give all of the cookies to Mark and me. – “You” is who the sentence is about. “You” is the noun performing the action “give”.

“We” vs. “us”:

Use “We” as a subject noun in a sentence (person, place, or thing a sentence is about). Use “us” as an object noun.

e.g.

  • We are vacationing in Aspen, Colorado next year. – “We” is who the sentence is about.
  • We, including several other people from the office, are vacationing in Singapore this year. – “We” is who the sentence is about.
  • I’m surprised you asked us to do the survey. – “I” is who the sentence is about.
  • We heard you were excited to help us with the marketing project. – The sentence is about “We” first, because it is the noun performing the very first action “heard”.

“It” vs. “they”:

Use “It” when referring to a singular non-human noun. Use “they” when referring to more than one of anything.

e.g.

  • The lion pride was an amazing site to see in the Tamani Safari, even though it was from a distance. – “pride” refers to “it”.
  • All of the people working for the language corporation were well experienced, and they all had received their degrees from Stanford University. – “People” in an organization is “they”.
  • The data in the website is organized by division, but it is not alphabetical or categorized by department. – (“Data” can be used as a singular or plural noun). “Data” refers to “it”.

Note:

Confusion often occurs also around the words “your” and “you’re”. The word “your” is a personal pronoun and “you’re” is a contraction of “you are”.

Unfortunately, technology and computers have not helped us enough with word confusion.

e.g.

You reply to an email or SMS by saying “Your Welcome!”

Whose welcome?

The proper in this case should be “You’re welcome!” – be careful if it is formal or informal.