3 ways to use English pronouns correctly

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3 ways to use English pronouns correctly
3 ways to use English pronouns correctly

Pronouns are words that replace nouns in a sentence so that they are not repeated too often. In English, there are many different types of pronouns, including personal, possessive, interrogative, relative, and reflexive pronouns, all of which have different rules. In general, all pronouns must agree with the antecedent and adopt the appropriate verb form. This is a general overview of how to use pronouns in English.


Method 1 of 3: Use Personal Pronouns

Use Pronouns Step 1
Use Pronouns Step 1

Step 1. Identify the antecedent

The antecedent is the noun that the pronoun replaces. Each pronoun must have a clear antecedent. The antecedent usually appears before the pronoun in a sentence or in the previous sentence.

  • "Gabby always wanted to go to the zoo, and now she had her chance." ("Gabby always wanted to go to the zoo and now she had her chance").

    In this example, "Gabby" is the antecedent of "she"

  • "The gulls were chattering as they flew." ("Seagulls chirped as they flew").

    "Gulls" ("seagulls") is the antecedent of "they" (they)

Use Pronouns Step 2
Use Pronouns Step 2

Step 2. Memorize the personal pronouns

Personal pronouns are pronouns that refer to people or things. They are the most basic form of pronouns. Personal pronouns must always be of the same number (singular or plural) and gender (masculine, feminine or neuter) as their antecedent. There are three types of personal pronouns: subject, object, and possessive pronouns.

  • First person singular:

    I, me, mine

  • First person plural:

    we, us, ours

  • Second person, singular and plural:

    you, yours

  • Third person masculine singular:

    he, him, his

  • Third person feminine singular:

    she, her, hers

  • Third person neuter singular:

    it, its

  • Third person plural (all genders):

    they, them, theirs

Use Pronouns Step 3
Use Pronouns Step 3

Step 3. Choose subject pronouns in case the pronoun performs the action

The subject pronouns are "I, we, you, he, she, it and they". Subject pronouns are often used at the beginning of sentences or clauses. They usually come before a verb. In case it is the pronoun that performs the action, you must use a subject pronoun.

  • "She drives to work every day". ("She drives to work every day").

    "She" ("she") is performing the action of driving. Hence, "she" is the subject

  • "They practice basketball in the morning". ("They practice basketball in the morning").

    "They" performs the action of practicing, so you must use a subject pronoun

Use Pronouns Step 4
Use Pronouns Step 4

Step 4. Choose object pronouns when the pronoun receives the action

The object pronouns are me, us, you, him, her, it, and them. In case the pronoun receives the action, it is known as a direct object. Object pronouns are always used when the antecedent is a direct object.

  • "Bob threw it across the room". ("Bob threw it across the room").

    "It" ("lo") receives the action of throwing, so you use an object pronoun

  • "Dad patted him on the back." ("Dad patted him on the back").

    "Him" takes the action of the slap, so you use an object pronoun

Use Pronouns Step 5
Use Pronouns Step 5

Step 5. Put the object pronouns after the prepositions

Object pronouns also come after prepositions. In this case, the pronouns replace the indirect object. The prepositions in English are words like "before" ("before"), "to" ("towards"), "after" ("after"), "through" ("through") and "above" ("above" ") indicating position. After a preposition, you should always use object pronouns.

  • "Mark passed the ball to him." ("Mark passed the ball to him").
  • "Alice walked in between them". ("Alice walked among them").
  • "The teacher walked in front of her". ("The teacher walked in front of her").
Use Pronouns Step 6
Use Pronouns Step 6

Step 6. Show possession using possessive pronouns

Possessive pronouns are pronouns that indicate that something belongs to something or someone. Possessive pronouns are mine, ours, yours, its, his, hers, and theirs.

  • "The car is hers". ("The car is hers").
  • "The blue house is theirs". ("The blue house is theirs").
  • "That book is a favorite of mine". ("That book is one of my favorites").

Method 2 of 3: Use More Advanced Types of Pronouns

Use Pronouns Step 7
Use Pronouns Step 7

Step 1. Ask questions with interrogative pronouns

Sometimes you don't know who or what does something, in which case interrogative pronouns are used, which include who, whom, what, whose, and which. The questions have no antecedent.

  • "Who is going to the movie?". ("Who is going to go to the movies?").
  • "Whose car is that parked out front of our house?" ("Whose car is parked in front of our house?").
  • "I don't understand what is going on." ("I don't understand what's going on").
Use Pronouns Step 8
Use Pronouns Step 8

Step 2. Reference the nouns using demonstrative pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns include this, that, these, those, etc. These words refer to a specific noun that is being discussed in conversation. The speaker or reader must understand exactly what the antecedent is.

  • "She looked at a red car. 'That is a nice car', she said". ("She looked at a red car. 'That's a nice car,' she said.")

    In this example, "that" is a demonstrative pronoun that clearly refers to the red car

Use Pronouns Step 9
Use Pronouns Step 9

Step 3. Define the nouns using relative pronouns

Relative pronouns are used after nouns to provide more information about them. They can tell us what person or thing is being talked about or provide more information about that person or thing. The relative pronouns are who, whom, which, whose, and that.

  • "Who" is the subject pronoun. It is used when you perform the action and only to refer to people. For example: "We visited my grandmother, who lives down the street". ("We visit my grandmother, who lives on this same street").
  • "Whom" is an object pronoun. Again, this means that it is used only when you receive the action or after a preposition. For example: "To whom am I speaking?". ("With whom I speak?").
  • "Which" is used when providing non-essential information. For example: "I put ketchup on my pasta, which is how I like it". ("I put ketchup on my pasta, which is how I like it").
  • "That" is used when providing essential information about an object. For example: "I like pasta that is covered in ketchup". ("I like pasta that's covered in ketchup.")
Use Pronouns Step 10
Use Pronouns Step 10

Step 4. Emphasize using intensive pronouns

Intensive pronouns end either in "- self" (in case they are singular) or "- selves" (in case they are plural). They are myself, ourselves, herself, himself, itself, themselves, yourself and yourselves. These pronouns can be used to add emphasis to a sentence.

  • "He himself will carry the torch to the podium." ("He himself will carry the torch to the podium").
  • "They can do it themselves". ("They can do it themselves").
Use Pronouns Step 11
Use Pronouns Step 11

Step 5. Use reflexive pronouns to show that the subject also receives the action

Reflexive pronouns are the same as intensive pronouns. They end in "- self" (for the singular) or "- selves" (for the plural) and indicate that the subject and the object are the same person or thing.

  • "I helped myself to the buffet". ("I served myself the buffet").

    In this sentence, the subject ("I" or "I") and the object ("myself") refer to the same person

Use Pronouns Step 12
Use Pronouns Step 12

Step 6. Use indefinite pronouns to indicate a general or non-specific object

These pronouns are often used to describe a general antecedent without specifying exactly who or what is being talked about. Indefinite pronouns are almost always singular, although the exceptions to this rule are both, all, few, many, or all, which are plural. Among the indefinite pronouns are the following:

  • each
  • anybody
  • somebody
  • nobody
  • everybody
  • one
  • anyone
  • everyone
  • someone
  • neither
  • either
  • nothing
  • cualquier cosa
  • everything
  • something

Method 3 of 3: Check the Agreement of Pronouns

Use Pronouns Step 13
Use Pronouns Step 13

Step 1. Say the prayer out loud

The ear is very good at detecting errors. Say the prayer. In case something sounds wrong, check the pronouns. You may not have spelled them correctly.

Use Pronouns Step 14
Use Pronouns Step 14

Step 2. Check that the pronouns are in agreement with the verbs

Singular pronouns must take singular verb forms. Plural pronouns take on plural verb forms. Check well that the pronoun takes the value of the same number as its antecedent and that the appropriate verb is used.

  • Each, either, neither, and one are always singular. This means that they adopt singular verbs.
  • Who takes the value of its antecedent. In case the antecedent is plural, who will be plural. In case the antecedent is singular, who will be singular.
Use Pronouns Step 15
Use Pronouns Step 15

Step 3. Replace the pronoun with the antecedent

The sentence must have exactly the same meaning if you change the pronoun to the antecedent. If you want to be sure that the usage is correct, try replacing the pronoun with the antecedent.

Use Pronouns Step 16
Use Pronouns Step 16

Step 4. Circle all the pronouns and draw a line to the antecedent

This should be very close to the pronoun. Ideally, it should be within the same sentence or in the immediately preceding sentence. In case you can't find the antecedent or it is far from the pronoun, replace the pronoun with the antecedent.

Use Pronouns Step 17
Use Pronouns Step 17

Step 5. Replace all nouns with pronouns

Remove all nouns and replace them only with pronouns in the sentence. This can help you get rid of distracting words and identify mistakes more quickly.

For example, in the sentence "Dad snapped a photo of Mike and she", replace "Dad", "a photo" and "Mike" for "he" and "it". You will get "" He snapped it of she "". You may realize the error that a subject pronoun ("she") was used where an object pronoun ("her") should have been used. The sentence should say "Dad snapped a photo of Mike and her."

Use Pronouns Step 18
Use Pronouns Step 18

Step 6. Complete the sentence

Sometimes sentences omit verbs that are understood in the meaning of the sentence. This usually happens with comparisons that use "than". Add these verbs again to determine if the pronoun is correct.

For example, in the sentence "He makes more money than she / her", you can finish the sentence to find the correct pronoun: "He makes more money than she [does]" is more correct that "He makes more money than her [does]"


  • In informal English, it has become acceptable to use object pronouns after the verb "to be", as in "This is her" instead of "this is she" to say "it's me" on the phone. Technically, this is not correct, although it is possible to use it in casual settings.
  • When speaking to a general audience, you should try to use gender-neutral pronouns. When writing, either address both genders (for example, "Everybody should bring his or her own drink" or "Everyone should bring his own drink") or use the third person plural as a gender-neutral pronoun ("Everybody should bring their own drink ").

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