What is a Pronoun?

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Pronouns

Pronouns replace nouns. This sentence says, “Dad is at his office.” We could also say that “he” is at his office. These two sentences have the same meaning, because “he” replaces “dad”, but they’re both talking about the same person. When dealing with pronouns, you have something called an antecedent.


An antecedent is the noun that a pronoun replaces. Here, “dad” is the antecedent, because later we have this pronoun “he”, which replaces “dad”. Now, there are many pronouns. I want to go ahead and list most of those: I, You, He, She, It, We, They, Me, You, Him, Her, It, Us, Them, My, Your, His, Her, Its, Our, Their, Mine, Yours, His, Hers, Ours, Theirs, Myself, Herself, Ourselves, and Himself. Those are a list of pronouns you’re probably pretty familiar with. Notice here that “his” is also a pronoun. “Dad” is the antecedent for both “his” and “he”.


Why do we use antecedents? Why don’t we just always use that noun? Well, take a look at this example: “Tom plays soccer. Tom is very athletic.” It’s kind of redundant, or annoying, to say “Tom” every time. Instead, we can replace “Tom”, which is now an antecedent for “he”. “Tom plays soccer. He is very athletic.” Because we just mentioned Tom, we know who “he” is talking about. Again, you always need an antecedent, because if we said, “He plays soccer. He is very athletic,” we don’t know who “he” is. You need an antecedent. You need that noun first, and then from there, you can use pronouns. As soon as you talk about someone else, as soon as you use a new noun, you need to use that noun again before you use a pronoun.


We could say, “Tom plays soccer. He is very athletic. Sam plays soccer, too.” Now, if we were to say, “He likes basketball,” then who would “he” stand for? “He” right here is a pronoun, so what is the antecedent? Are we talking about Sam or are we talking about Tom? Most likely, people are going to think you’re talking about Sam, because that’s the last noun you used. If you were talking about Tom, then you’d need to actually use his name right here. Pronouns only work as long as there is only one noun in the picture. A soon as you use a new noun, you need to use that old noun again before you can use an antecedent.


Look at this sentence: “People should wash its cars.” You want to make sure your pronouns agree with your noun. You want to make sure they agree with the antecedent. Here, “people” was the antecedent and “its” is the pronoun, but they chose the wrong pronoun here. This should say “their” cars, because when we use the word “its”, that’s a singular form. It’s like they’re referring to one person, but here, since we’re talking about people, we’re talking about lots of people, we need to use the pronoun “their”, because that’s plural. It refers to more than one person. Again, that’s a quick look at pronouns. Pronouns replace nouns.



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Last updated: 04/27/2018

 

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