Subject Pronouns

Pronouns that are used in the position of a subject in sentences are called subject pronouns. In this article, you find all your answers about subject pronouns.

Subject Pronouns in the English Grammar

What Are Subject Pronouns?

A subject pronoun (also called a subjective pronoun) is a pronoun that takes the place of the subject of a sentence. In a sentence, the subject is the word that tells who or what the sentence is about.

English Subject Pronouns

There are seven main subject pronouns:

Singular Subject Pronouns Plural Subject Pronouns
1st-person I we
2nd-person you you
3rd-person he/she/it they

Take a look at these examples:

Sarah is tall and she is cute.

Here, instead of repeating the name 'Sarah,' we have used a subject pronoun.

Michael called me. He said he needs money.

Tip!

The primary purpose of subject pronouns in English is to avoid repetition and redundancy.

Subject Pronoun 'You'

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 the number. In case you need to emphasize the number of people being addressed, you can use 'You all.'

You all need to work harder, if you want to succeed.

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:

You cannot smoke here.

In this example, 'you' refers to all the people in general.

Third-Person Singular 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:

Third-person Pronoun 'She'

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. She is such a great ride.

In this example, 'she' refers to a car.

The Titanic was made in April 1912 and she sunk on her very first voyage.

'She' here refers to a ship.

My sister's cat is so calm, she is always sleepy.

'She' here refers to a female cat.

using the subject pronoun 'she' to refer to a pet

Third-person Pronoun 'He'

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 needs to take it easy and rest for a while.

'He' here refers to a man.

Many religions refer to God as an almighty being; they believe He can solve all problems.

'He' here refers to God.

Warning

When using 'He' to refer to God, you should always write it in capital letters. Even if it is in the middle of a sentence.

Third-person Pronoun 'It'

3 - 'It' is used to talk about objects, animals, and generally anything but people (except for babies; before the gender of the baby is known). Pay attention to the following examples:

I like this book; I think it's really interesting.

'It' refers to an object.

Jason saw a sick cat; it was not in good shape.

'It' here refers to an animal.

Chris and I are having a baby and I feel like it's a boy.

'It' here refers to a baby.

Warning

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; we use it 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 it was raining.

Here, 'it' is used to talk about weather.

It was in the 1920s that America suffered from the Great Depression.

Here, 'it' is used to talk about a date.

It's 2 o'clock.

Here, 'it' is used to talk about a time.

Third-person Plural Pronoun 'They'

Impersonal 'They'

When you are talking about people in general or 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 need to take action.

'They' here refers to an organization (The United Nations).

Amazon has a few problems with shipment; they need to fix it if they don't want to lose their customers.

'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:

'We'll do anything to find the suspect. They cannot run away forever,' said Sergeant Clarke.

Alex loves to travel. They take photos of all the places they visit.

Review

Subject pronouns are used as the subject of a sentence. They usually refer back to a noun as the subject of a clause. There are different subject pronouns with different uses but they are mainly eight in number. Check out the table:

First person Second person Third person
Singular I You He/She/It
Plural We You They

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