Pronoun Usage

As Bill Waterson once said, a pronoun is simply a noun that’s lost its amateur status. In reality, pronouns are words that stand in place of nouns. Hi, and welcome to this video on pronoun usage.

What exactly are pronouns? Well, they help our writing and speaking to be less repetitive, because you don’t have to repeat the name of the person or thing you’re talking about every single time you mention them. At the same time, if you’re not careful with how you use your pronouns, they can actually confuse your reader.

General Pronoun Usage

In order to use pronouns correctly, you have to match them up with their antecedent, which is the word the pronoun replaces. You must match in number and gender. Number means matching plurals and singular. Don’t forget, some things seem to be singular when they’re actually plural, like a pair of pants. As in “I like your moose. Where’d you get them?”

You must also make sure that the gender of your pronoun matches that of your antecedent. If you’re referring to a mixed or unknown-gender group or person, you may use they or their. Saying he or she is also acceptable, but many writers find this clunky so the grammatically-incorrect-but-better-sounding they is used more often.

There are several different main types of pronouns: personal, possessive pronouns, reflexive, demonstrative, indefinite, relative, and interrogative.

Personal Pronouns

There are three different persons in English: first, second, and third. First-person refers to the person doing the speaking, second-person to the people being addressed, and third-person refers to those other than the speaker and the person she’s addressing. Think of it this way: if a captain is addressing her squad right before a big game, the captain refers to herself in first-person, refers to her team in second-person, and to the other team in third-person—as in “we are going to destroy them.”

Possessive Pronouns

Possessive pronouns are a subset of personal pronouns. These are used in order to indicate, well, possession. These include my, mine, theirs, hers, etc.

For example:

This is my favorite band.
That’s her favorite flavor.

Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are pronouns that refer to a previously mentioned noun or pronoun, or when a thing acts on itself. In English, they will end in -self or -selves. Sometimes, reflexive pronouns are used to intensify what is being said. For example, a braggart might say, “I myself have built this city.” Another example might be, “He raked the leaves up all by himself.”

Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns point to something, as in “I’ll have that sandwich” or “take this shovel and put it over there.” Notice here that the pronoun and the thing referred to exist in the same sentence—the pronoun doesn’t replace the noun with demonstrative pronouns.


Review

Before we finish, let’s try a few practice sentences:

  1. Abigail left ____ car keys over ____.
  2. I love these guys. They’re ____ favorite group.
  3. ____ car is faster than the one over ____.
  4. Jack fell down and hurt _____.
  5. You guys are the best. ___ will make it through.

And that’s all we’ve got for now! Hope this was helpful.

Thanks for watching and happy studying!

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by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: October 7, 2021