Pronouns*

Parts of Speech: Pronouns

April 4, 2019

Native English Instructor

Written by Douglas Shaw

Pronouns can be used in place of nouns (when needed), and a pronoun works just like a noun in a sentence. It’s important to remember, however, to use pronouns carefully:

Often times, writers make the mistake of referring to a noun with a pronoun without first providing and introducing the actual noun that is being replaced.

This can cause confusion for the reader since it’s not clear who or what a pronoun is referring too. Also, once introduced, nouns should be mentioned again here and there throughout a paragraph to remind readers of the name or title of a noun. Nouns should be re-named even more often when many different nouns are being talked about in the same paragraph.

It is also a good idea to use plenty of pronouns intermittently throughout paragraphs to replace nouns so that all sentences don’t begin exactly the same or follow the exact same pattern each time. In this case, sentences may start to sound redundant or choppy when they’re all the same and become very predictable to readers.

Without sacrificing meaning and direction in your paragraphs, it’s good to mix it up a bit with sentences.

 

Writing Tip

When starting a new paragraph, it’s also a good idea to re-introduce a noun in the first sentence since readers normally look for a change in thought or direction in a new paragraph.

Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns tend to come to mind first when we think about pronouns. Most people use them a lot in their writing, and most writers instinctively know to use personal pronouns when referring to people or things, even if they’re not always sure when or how to use them.

Note:

The main thing about personal pronoun usage is based on number, person, gender.

However, with the factor “gender” a lot has changed over the years in English language usage when it comes to the correctness of referring to a person by their gender. It’s something to keep in mind when writing since the main change has to do with writers no longer automatically referring to an anonymous someone as “he” or “him”, “she” or “her”.

So, it’s better to replace the word “his” with either “his / her” or just use “their”. Even though “their” is typically known as a plural personal pronoun, it has now become acceptable and a gender-neutral way to refer to someone.

When writers use certain statements or commands (e.g. “stop” or “listen to me!”) the personal pronoun “you” is implied…

  • You stop!
  • You listen to me!

Personal pronouns

PersonNumber
 SingularPlural
1st personI (my, me)We (our, us)
2nd personYou (your, you)You (your, you)
3rd personHe (his, him) 
 She (her, her)They (their, them)
 It (its, it) 

e.g.

  • She smiled at them, but I wished she would also smile at me.
  • A law student spends a lot of time studying their law books.
  • They gave her to us last week, we are really enjoying our new puppy.
  • It’s name is Molly.

Note:

In the examples, it’s not always clear who or what the sentence is about. That is why it’s important for a writer to make sure readers always know who or what is being referred to, before using a large number of personal pronouns to replace nouns in a paragraph.

In spoken English, personal pronouns and slang go together very well, many people are using slang more in their everyday conversations. Academic writers will mention that in written, slang is not used unless the writer is directly quoting someone.

Depending on various cultures, different versions of the plural form of the pronoun (e.g. “you”) are used. Some slang forms used include “you guys”(referring to guys and gals).

It’s only necessary, however, to use “you” when addressing more than one person. Anytime that you use slang (spoken or written) (e.g. “dude” or “dudes”) for a personal pronoun, it still is slang.

Using slang may be accepted in spoken English but not for academic, business, or formal writing. By using slang pronouns can create confusion.



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