Misuse of pronouns
Express your ideas clearly and accurately. Don’t be put off by the grammatical terms, but rather focus on the ways you can correct your mistakes in grammar.
A pronoun is a word that can be used in place of a noun so that we do not become repetitive.
For example, imagine writing the following sentence:
Afrah put her scarf on because Afrah was cold.
The sentence sounds a bit strange because Afrah is named twice; however, if you use a pronoun, the sentence will be shorter and less repetitive. A better sentence avoids repetition:
Afrah put her scarf on because she was cold.
She refers to Afrah, so you do not have to write the name twice.
There are different types of pronouns:
- Subject Pronouns
- Object Pronouns
- Possessive Pronouns
- Pronouns with compound subjects
I, you, he, she, it, we, they
Subject pronouns are often the subject of a sentence: “who” and “what” the sentence is about.
She loves the desserts in France.
She is the subject.
By lunch time, they were hungry.
They is the subject.
me, you, him, her, it, us, them
Melanie’s thoughtfulness touched him.
Him is the object of the verb touched.
We lifted it.
It is the object of the verb lifted.
Object pronouns come after either a verb or a preposition.
my (mine), your(s), his, hers, its, our(s), their(s)
A pronoun that shows possession or ownership is called a possessive pronoun.
The teacher took her apple and left.
The pronoun her shows the teacher owns the apple.
The hikers spotted their guide on the trail.
The pronoun their shows the hikers follow the guide who was assigned to the hikers.
Using pronouns with compound subjects
Harriet and I visited the Grand Canyon last summer
Jenna accompanied Harriet and me on our trip.
The following sentence is incorrect:
Me and Harriet visited the Grand Canyon last summer.
Note that object pronouns are never used in the subject position. One way to remember this rule is to remove the other subject in a compound subject (eg. Harriet), leave only the pronoun. Does it make sense? For example, Me visited the Grand Canyon last summer sounds immediately incorrect.
Using pronouns with compound objects.
Compound object pronouns are two or more pronouns joined by a conjunction or a preposition that act as the object of the sentence.
I have a good feeling about Janice and me.
I have a good feeling about Janice and I.
It is correct to write Janice and me, as opposed to me and Janice, as it is more polite to refer to yourself last.
In casual conversation, people sometimes mix up subject and object pronouns. For instance, you might say, “Me and Donnie went to a movie last night.” However, when you are writing or speaking at work or in any other formal situation, you need to be able to correct yourself.
Common pronoun errors
Me and Daniela went to the restaurant for lunch.
An object pronoun (me) is used instead of a subject pronoun.
Daniela and I went to the restaurant for lunch.
A subject pronoun (I) is used and the other person’s name is put first.
She saw my friend and I.
A subject pronoun (I) has been used instead of an object pronoun (me).
She saw my friend and me.
An object pronoun (me) is used. One way to know that an object pronoun should be used is because it comes after the verb.
The woman she went to work earlier than usual.
The subject ‘the woman’ is repeated by the pronoun ‘she’.
The woman went to work earlier than usual.
She went to work earlier than usual.
The unnecessary repeated subject has been removed.
Some students are often perplexed by when to use which pronouns. Which pronoun should be used? How do you know it?
These activities will help you better grasp how to use which pronouns.
Correct the sentences that have pronoun errors.Activity
Swan, M. (2005). Practical English usage. UK: Oxford University Press.
Murphy, R. (2004). English grammar in use. UK: Cambridge University Press.
This work includes material from the following sources:
The Saylor Foundation. (2013). Writing for success. Retrieved from: http://www.saylor.org/books/ Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Lardbucket. (n.d.) English for business success. Pronouns. Retrieved from http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/english-for-business-success/s05-05-pronouns.html Licensed under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa 3.0 license