One of the basic parts of speech, a pronoun takes the place of a noun, often serving as a subject or an object in a sentence. Personal pronouns are important devices for making our writing both concise and coherent.
A pronoun can be effective if we use an appropriate form (or case). Otherwise, it may distract or puzzle the reader. There are three common pronoun forms: subject pronouns, object pronouns, and possessive pronouns. We should try to be careful not to confuse one pronoun form with another.
Subject Pronouns (Subjective Case)
Subject pronouns are used as subjects of sentences and of subordinate clauses. The subject pronouns are italicized in the sentences below.
- I live for the summer.
- You remind me of a gray day in winter.
- He (or She or It) is heading for a fall.
- We are ready to spring into action.
- They never last longer than a season.
Object Pronouns (Objective Case)
Object pronouns are used as objects of verbs or of prepositions. The object pronouns are italicized in the sentences below.
- The sun never shines on me.
- Someday a planet will be named after you.
- Mona gave him (or her or it) a gold ribbon.
- She showed us the ring around the moon.
- The Coast Guard rescued them at dawn.
Possessive Pronouns (Possessive Case)
Possessive pronouns show who or what owns something. The possessive pronouns are italicized in the sentences below.
- My old guitar is in the pawn shop, but the drum set is still mine.*
- Your song was hard to understand, but I still enjoyed yours more than anyone else's.
- His (or Her or Its) music is too sweet, so we played hers (or his) instead.
- Our music may be old fashioned, but it's still ours.
- The Simpsons left their children in the garage, but the McGraths took theirs home.
Notice that you don't use an apostrophe with a possessive pronoun.
* Some grammarians make a distinction between possessive determiners (such as my in "My old guitar") and possessive pronouns (such as mine in "the drum set is still mine."
Practice in Using Correct Pronoun Forms
These exercises will give you practice in using the different forms of pronouns clearly and correctly:
- Using the Different Forms of Pronouns: Practice Exercise 1
- Pronoun Exercise: Recasting a Paragraph With Pronouns