by Liz Walter
Pronouns are words we use instead of nouns in order to avoid repeating the nouns. Compare the following:
Laura picked up the book. Laura gave the book to Zalie.
Laura picked up the book. She gave it to Zalie.
We use pronouns when we have already mentioned a person or thing, or when it is obvious who or what they are.
The most common pronouns are personal pronouns – pronouns that refer to people or things. The most important thing to remember about these is that (with the exception of you and it), they are different according to whether they are the subject or the object of a sentence.
Alex saw Harry./ He saw him.
Alex (he) is the subject of the sentence, and Harry (him) is the object. The subject personal pronouns are: I, you, he, she, it, we, you, they. The object personal pronouns are: me, you, him, her, it, us, you, them.
Here is another example:
Emma wouldn’t give the money to Paul and Tom./ She wouldn’t give it to them.
When you are talking about yourself and another person it can be tricky to know when to say I and when to say me. The simple rule is to use the pronoun you would use if you were only writing about yourself:
Lara and I got married last year.
Gerry came with Kate and me.
One very common error for learners of English is to use a noun and a pronoun to refer to the same person or thing in the same clause. Remember that you should use one or the other, not both. If you are not sure if you need a pronoun, try replacing it with the whole noun and see if the sentence still makes sense:
The weather it is good today.
The weather is good today.
My friend she moved to Paris.
My friend moved to Paris.
To show who something belongs to, we use the possessive determiners, also known as possessive adjectives: my, your, his, her, its, our, your, their. These aren’t pronouns because they don’t replace a noun, but we usually learn them together with other pronouns because they are so closely related:
Is this your coat?
Where is my phone?
Never try to form a possessive with of and a personal pronoun:
I saw the brother of her.
I saw her brother.
The pronouns for possessives are as follows: mine, yours, his, hers, ours, yours, theirs:
You can’t have that cake – it’s mine!
Is this pen yours?
I’ll end this post with a word of warning – pronouns probably cause more spelling mistakes than any other words! For example, be careful not to confuse its (belonging to it) and it’s (it is), or your (belonging to you) and you’re (you are). For more help on this aspect of pronouns, see my post ‘There, their and they’re – which one should you use?’
In my next post, I will discuss some other types of pronoun, such as reflexive pronouns and the common words all and both.