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Basic Grammar and Punctuation: Pronouns

The tutorials below address basic grammar and punctuation errors writers routinely have. Use these guidelines to proofread and correct errors in your papers before submission. For hands-on help, see a tutor in your campus Learning Support Commons.

About Pronouns

Pronouns are words that substitute for nouns.

Subjective pronouns come before the verb usually: We love grammar!

singular

plural

I

we

you

you

he, she, it

they

 

Objective pronouns come after the verb usually: School challenges me!

singular

plural

me

us

you

you

him, her, it

them

 

Possessive pronouns show ownership: That's my book.

singular

plural

my, mine

our, ours

your, yours

your, yours

his, her, hers, its

their, theirs

 

A pronoun usually refers to the noun that immediately proceeds it, or its antecedent.

For example:

Jane is my best friend. She has lived next door since kindergarten. (She is the pronoun that refers to Jane.)

I don't like video games because they are too violent. (They is the pronoun that refers to games.)

The doctor treated his or her patients with dedication. (A doctor can be male or female, so you must use both gender singular pronouns)

Pronouns should always agree in number with their antecedent.

For example:

RightMargaret showed her paintings at the exhibit. (Singular antecedent, singular pronoun.)

Wrong Jack and Sam waited for delivery of the parts he ordered. (they is plural, but he is singular)

 

Some nouns sound like they should be plural but are actually singular. If a noun needs a singular verb, then it should also get a singular pronoun.

These pronouns include indefinite pronouns: Everyone should bring his or her lunch.

one

nobody

nothing

each

anyone

anybody

anything

either

someone

somebody

something

neither

everyone

everybody

everything

 

 

and collective nouns: The class turned in its papers.

audience

corporation

government

class

council

group

committee

crowd

jury

company

family

team

 

Pronoun Error #1:

Since pronouns stand in place of a noun, it must be clear which antecedent you are referring to.

For example:

James told Mike his bike had been stolen. (Whose bike was stolen?)

She put her lunch and purse on the table and began to eat it. (What did she eat: lunch, purse, or table?)

When the plane landed, they told me the next flight was late. (who is they?)

Pronoun Problem #2:

When several pronouns are used, it's easy to get confused about who is speaking. Be consistent in using the correct pronoun.

For example:

Every time I go to the mall, the parking lot is so crowded you circle round and round for parking. (I is speaking; who is you?)

My boyfriend and I like camping, but you have to be prepared for mosquitoes. (We like camping; who is you?)

 

Other common errors:

1) Pronouns used with a preposition are always objective. It is never correct to say "Between you and I"

The plans for the surprise party must be kept a secret from him and me because I cannot keep secrets.

2) Never use myself in place of I or me.

Wrong I thought the prize should have gone to myself.

Right I thought the prize should have gone to me.

3) Don’t use a pronoun when you’ve already stated the noun.

Wrong For example Brazil, it has sunny beaches.

Right Brazil has sunny beaches.