While speaking or writing in English, you cannot always use people's names to refer to them; this would make your speech or writing dull and full of unnecessary repetition. You can avoid this by using personal pronouns.
What Is a Pronoun?
Basically, pronouns are substitutes for nouns; personal pronouns particularly substitute names and proper nouns and they can take the role of the subject and object in a sentence.
Take a look at this example:
Jennifer saw a cat at the shelter;
In this example, the pronouns 'she' and 'it' are **substitutes** for 'Jennifer' and 'cat'; 'she' is functioning as the subject of the second sentence and 'it' as the object.
How Personal Pronouns Are Categorized
Personal pronouns are categorized based on four criteria:
- Grammatical Function (being the subject or object in the sentence)
In English, each pronoun can have one of these three grammatical persons:
- First-person: refers to the speaker
- Second-person: refers to the person that is being addressed
- Third-person: refers to a third party which is not present or not participating in the speech
For pronouns that are marked based on gender, each pronoun can have one of these three genders:
- No-Gender (or neutral)
Pronouns (and almost all nouns) are categorized into two main groups based on number:
- Singular: When we are addressing
onething or person
- Plural: When we are addressing
more than onething or person
Subjective Personal Pronouns
In a sentence, subject does an action, and the action of the verb happens to the object. Subjective personal pronouns, as is evident by the name, can replace the subject of a sentence. For example:
In this example 'John' is the subject. (He is doing the action of buying)
Subjective pronouns can be used when you know who or what you are addressing. You can see them in the following table:
Now let's see them in action in these examples:
In this example we replaced 'John' with a personal pronoun. (it is third person and a man, so 'He' will be the correct choice)
In this example; the subject is the first person singular pronoun.
In this example, the subject is the second person singular/plural pronoun.
Names Are Third Person
Names in sentences are almost always third-person. For the first and second person, you should always use a pronoun. Referring to yourself with a name may sound weird!
Personal Pronoun 'You'
'You' as Second Person Singular and Plural
You may have noticed that English has the same pronoun for second person singular and plural. It may look odd at first but as the second person is the person who is being addressed in the sentence, you do not need to emphasize number. In case you need to emphasize the number of people being addressed, you can use 'You all'.
In this example, the speaker is putting emphasis on addressing all the people who hear this sentence.
Generic or Impersonal 'You'
'You' can also be used as an 'impersonal pronoun'. In this case it does not necessarily address someone, but it shows a general law or situation. Look at these examples:
In this example, 'one' refers to all the people in general.
The two sentences have the same meaning. The first one is using the impersonal pronoun 'one' which does not address anybody in particular. The second one has the same meaning, but it uses 'you' instead. (It is not particularly addressing you but stating a general rule or fact.)
Using Third-Person Pronouns
Third-person singular has three forms in subjective personal pronouns: 'he', 'she', and 'it.' This is one of the only cases in the English language in which gender plays a role in grammar. In English, the grammatical gender of a noun is usually the same as its natural gender, which means a man is male in grammar and a woman is female; however, there are some important exceptions:
1 - 'She' is generally used to refer to a girl or a woman. It is also used to refer to a car or a ship. For animals, we can use 'she' if the gender is known, especially when we want to emphasize the gender of the animal. Take a look at these examples:
I love my new Cadillac.
In this example, 'she' is referring to a car.
The Titanic was made in April 1912 and
'She' here is referring to a ship.
My sister's cat is so calm,
'She' here is referring to a female cat.
2 - 'He' is used to refer to a boy or a man, but it can also be used to refer to God. 'He' has the same rules for animals as 'she.' Take a look at the following examples:
Andrew is a workaholic.
'He' here is referring to a man.
Many religions refer to God as an almighty being; they believe
'He' here is referring to God.
Using He for God
When using 'He' referring to God, you should always write it with capital letters. Even if it is in the middle of a sentence.
3 - 'It' is used to talk about objects, animals, and generally anything but humans (except for babies; before the gender of the baby is known). Pay attention to the following examples:
I like this book; I think
'It' here is referring to an object.
Jason saw a sick cat;
'It' here is referring to an animal.
Chris and I are having a baby and I feel like
'It' here is referring to a baby.
Using 'it' to refer to adults can be impolite, be careful when using this pronoun for people.
'It' as a Dummy Pronoun
A dummy pronoun is a pronoun that refers to nothing. It does not show or do anything; it is just there so the sentence has a subject. One of the uses of 'it' is as a dummy pronoun. It is usually used in sentences to talk about time, weather, date, etc. Take a look at the following examples:
Sam took his umbrella because
Here, 'it' is used to talk about weather.
'it' is used to talk about a date.
'it' is used to talk about a time.
Personal Pronoun 'They'
Using 'They' to Talk about Institutions
When you are talking about institutions, organizations, or governments, you use 'they.' In this sense, you are talking about a group but you do not know the members of the group. Therefore, you generally refer to them as 'they.' Here are some examples:
The United Nations should not stay silent.
'They' here is referring to an organization (The United Nations).
Amazon has a few problems with shipment;
'They' here is referring to a *company* (Amazon).
Using 'They' to Avoid Gender
Sometimes the speaker may not know someone's gender or the gender may not be important. In this case, 'he' and 'she' can be replaced by 'they.' Take a look at these examples:
Someone has missed
Here, the subject is singular but instead of 'he' or 'she', we use 'they' to avoid mentioning their gender.
Here, instead of using 'his' or 'her', we use 'their' to avoid gender.
Objective Personal Pronouns
Objective personal pronouns (or object pronouns) are used when we want to substitute a name that has the role of the object in a sentence. The object in a sentence is the noun that the action of the verb happens to it.
Look at these examples:
In this example, Jane is a third-person singular and can be replaced by pronoun 'her'.
In this example, 'his food' (an object) and 'his friend' (a male person) are substituted with pronouns 'it' and 'him'.
Objective Pronoun 'You'
The second-person object pronoun 'you' has the same form when singular or plural and it does not change when we are addressing a singular or plural subject or object.
In this example, it has been told to the person not to smoke in the area (the action of telling happened to the pronoun 'you').
Uses of Objective Personal Pronouns Beyond Object
Objective personal pronouns do not always play the role of the object in a sentence. Some of the most important exceptions are:
1 - In existential phrases: When we want to answer short, usually in the first person singular:
Who wants to eat this food? –
In this example, instead of saying 'I want to eat this food', we use 'me' as a short answer.
I liked the movie. –
In this example, instead of saying 'I like the movie too', we can shorten the answer and say 'me too'.
Who is going to clean this mess? – not
Remember, to make a negative short answer using the object pronoun, never put 'not' after the pronoun. It means we are not allowed to say 'me not.'
2 - In existential clauses: For example, when we want to introduce ourselves on the phone or show our presence:
Who is it? - It's
In these examples, 'me' is used to introduce the person.
3 - In coordinative phrases: in informal speech, when we want to use two people as subjects with the use of 'and':
In formal speech, it is better to use it in this way:
Remember, we cannot say 'I and he', 'I' should be the second part of the whole subject.
Personal pronouns are words such as; I, you, he, she, it, we, and they that are used to avoid unnecessary repetitions.
|pronouns||subject/ object||names/ proper nouns|
|categories||first/ second/ third||male/ female/ neutral||singular/ plural||subjective pronouns/ objective pronouns|
refers to only
is used as an
|Third person singular pronouns||
refers to a
refers to a
is used to