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. The subject of a sentence is the word or group of words that tells us who or what the sentence is about. By using subject pronouns, speakers and writers can help to make their language more concise and avoid repetition.

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.

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

Subject Pronoun 'You'

Second Person Singular and Plural

In English, the same pronoun is used for both the second person singular and plural. While this may seem odd at first, it is because the focus is on addressing the person or group being spoken to, rather than emphasizing their number. However, in certain contexts, it may be necessary to emphasize the number of people being addressed. In these cases, the phrase 'you all' can be used. By using 'you all' in certain situations, speakers and writers can make their language more precise and clarify the number of people being addressed.

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'

In addition to being used as a personal pronoun, 'you' can also be used as an impersonal pronoun in certain contexts. In this case, it does not address or refer to a specific person, but rather represents a general law or situation. By using 'you' as an impersonal pronoun, speakers and writers can make their language more concise and avoid the use of passive voice or other more complex constructions. 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 referring to God using the pronoun 'He,' it is customary to capitalize the 'H' in 'He' in English. This rule applies regardless of where the reference to God appears in a sentence

Third-person Pronoun 'It'

3 - The pronoun 'it' is commonly used to refer to inanimate objects, animals, and other non-human entities in English. While 'it' is not normally used to refer to people, an exception is made for babies before their gender 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 that has no antecedent or referent. It does not refer to anything specific and is used simply to fulfill the grammatical function of a subject or object in a sentence. 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 referring to people in general or to institutions, organizations, or governments, the pronoun 'they' is often used in English. This is because in such cases, the speaker or writer is referring to a group of people or an entity as a whole, rather than individual members. Using 'they' to refer to groups of people or organizations helps to depersonalize the subject matter and emphasize the collective nature of the group.
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

In situations where an individual's gender is unknown or irrelevant, the use of gender-neutral language can be helpful. One common way to do this in English is to use the pronoun 'they' in place of 'he' or 'she.'
Using 'they' as a gender-neutral pronoun helps to avoid making assumptions about an individual's gender.

'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 seven 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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