Pronoun Usage

Definition: Pronouns are words that take the place of nouns in sentences.

Consider this sentence:

The boy has been working all day long; he really needs some rest.

The word italicized in the above sentence is a pronoun. It takes the place of the noun, boy.

Characteristics of pronouns.                                

1. Pronouns are in three persons: the first, second, and third persons. The first person is the one talking, the second is the one being talked to, and the third is the person or thing other than the one talking or the one being talked to.

2. Pronouns take different forms/cases depending on the role they play in sentences. There are four cases to be considered: the subjective(nominative), objective, possessive, and reflexive cases.

3. Pronouns have number just like the nouns whose place they take. They can be singular(one) or plural(two or more).

Consider the various forms of the personal pronouns below.                                                                                                                                                                                    Subjective                  Objective    

Singular                                        

1stperson.         I                              me  

2nd person        you                        you  

3rd person         he(masc.)            him  

                              she(fem.)              her  

                              it(neu.)                   it  

   Plural                                                    

  1st person          We                        us    

 2nd person          you                      you  

 3rd person          they                     them      

                            Possessive         Reflexive

  Singular                                                        

 1st person        my,  mine             myself 

2nd person      your, yours          yourself

3rd person             his                      himself

                                 her, hers              herself

                                     its                         itself  

Plural                                                          

 1st person         our, ours          ourselves

2nd person       yours yours    yourselves

3rd person       their, theirs   themselves

Rules on Pronoun Usage

In informal communication, we do not really need to be so strict grammatically about pronoun usage. However, when it comes to the academic and professional realm, one must be fairly particular about his use of the pronouns. It really shapes our personality and so to say, wins us marks( for tests and exams) and even employment( when your employer is particular about it). The following carefully analyzed rules govern the use of pronouns.

Rule 1:  When the pronoun is the subject or does the action in the sentence, use its subjective case( I, we, he, she,they), not the objective case(me, us,him,her, them). [Take note: it and you are not considered since they do not change forms between the subjective and objective cases].

EXAMPLES:  

 DON’T SAY: Me am tired.  

 SAY:  I am tired.  

 [ The first person , in this case, is the subject of the verb, am, in the sentence. So its right form to use is I, not me].                                                            

DON’T SAY: Them will have to do the job.     

 SAY: They will have to do the job.

Rule 2: When the pronoun is part of a compound subject( two or more subjects matching the same verb), one may end up using either the objective or reflexive case instead of the subjective. To avoid this error, match the pronoun separately with the given verb and apply rule 1 above.

 See the analysis of the following sentences in this regard.    

1. Derrick and me(myself )attended the same school.

Ques:Can we say, me ( myself ) attended the same school?  

Ans: No, hence the sentence is incorrect.

2. Derrick and I attended the same school.  

 Ques: Can we say, I attended the same school?  

  Ans: Yes, hence the sentence is correct.

MORE EXAMPLES:  

DON’T SAY:Theresa  and him wanted to implicate me.  

[ Him wanted to implicate me?]  

SAY: Theresa and he wanted to implicate me.[ He wanted to implicate me.]  

DON’T SAY: They and us were enemies since our school days.[ Us were enemies since our school days?]      

SAY: They and we were enemies since our school days.[ We were enemies since our school days]

Rule 3: Sometimes, a noun can be used in apposition to the subjective pronouns. This can also be confusing and one may resort to using an objective case instead. To avoid this, ignore the noun used in apposition to the pronoun, and your own ear will confirm the right pronoun case to use.

 Consider the analysis of these sentences:

  1. Us, Christians, must obey the laws of God as stated in the Bible.                                          [ When you take off the noun in apposition to the pronoun(Christians) from the sentence, it will read: Us must obey the laws of God as stated in the Bible. And this is clearly not in conformity with rule 1. So the sentence is wrong!]    

2. We, Christians, must obey the laws of God as stated in the Bible.[ Repeating the same process of sentence 1, we will have: We must obey the laws of God as stated in the Bible. This is rightly in conformity with rule 1 and hence, the sentence is grammatically correct!]

MORE EXAMPLES:

1. I, Drake, am a man with principles. ( not me)

2. They, students can be naughty at times. ( not them)

Rule 4: When the pronoun is the object or receives the action in the sentence, use its objective case, not the subjective.

EXAMPLES:

1. It hurts her seriously. ( not she

2. God protects us humans always.            ( not we

3. Let’s not disappoint him;(not he) he trusts you and me ( not I ) very much.

Rule 5: When a pronoun comes after a preposition, it is the object of that preposition; hence, put it in its objective case.

EXAMPLES:

 1. We wouldn’t have come this far without them.[ Without is a preposition, so the pronoun that comes after it is rightly placed in the objective case].

2. There is absolutely nothing going on between me and her.[ Be careful not to say between she and Ibetween is a preposition.]  

 3. It’s all a conspiracy against Leonardo and me. ( not I )

Rule 6:  After any of the be verbs( am, is, was, are, were, be, being, been), use the subjective case of the pronoun, not the objective.

EXAMPLES:

1. The criminals could be they. [ This sentence can even be rephrased as:    They could be the criminals.And the sentence will remain meaningful. However, if you use them,the sentence will read: Them could be the criminals, which is clearly ungrammatical]                 2. I am he, the one talking to you.( not him)

3. It is we who are to blame. ( not us)

Rule 7: When a pronoun comes after the comparative word, than or as……as, complete the sentence mentally to know the right pronoun case to use.

EXAMPLES:  

1. You can’t be smarter than I.( not me)   [ I is used because a mental completion of the sentence reveals: You can’t be smarter than I am.]  

2. Do you think you are more brilliant than he ( not him). [ Do you think you are more brilliant than he is?]

3. My son is as intelligent as she.( not her)   [ My son is as intelligent as she is]

  4. He prefers being with them than us.   ( not we)   [ He prefers being  with them than with us]

Rule 8:  Before a gerund[ present participle/-ing form of verb used as a noun], the pronoun should be in its possessive case. Some people violate this rule by using the objective case rather.                                                                   EXAMPLES:

 1. I really do not appreciate your( not you) coming to my house. [ The gerund here is coming and  before it, the pronoun must be in a possessive case, not objective as can be seen in this sentence.

2. We were all surprised at his dancing in church today; he rarely does such.             ( not him)

3.  My mother was very particular about my doing homework late in the night.      ( not me)  

4. Our stealing from the shareholders was all in good fun.( not we)

Rule 9:  Use the reflexive cases only to emphasize actions of subjects or reflect actions back to their doers.  

 EXAMPLES:  

1. I did the job myself.                                     [Myself here emphacizes the fact that I did the job personally.]  

2. The frustrated man killed himself.         [ Himself reflects the action to back to its doer. That is to say, the doer of the action receives the action or the same person is the subject and at the same time, the object.]

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