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When using pronouns, use them only after the noun to which they refer has been clearly identified. Often when we write, we are so familiar with our subject that we forget that the reader may not know who, or what the subject is. "He gave them to her," seems to be a good sentence; unfortunately we do not know what any of the pronouns refer to.

Personal Pronouns

In English, personal pronouns are the one area of grammar where it is necessary to pay attention to case, that is, whether something is a subject, object or possessive. Reflexive pronouns are also included in the following table; they are used to provide emphasis in certain situations such as pride of accomplishment, surprise, elation, etc.

Person subject/ predicate nominative object possessive possessive + noun reflexive
Singular First I
e.g. I have a book.
e.g. Give me the book.
e.g. The book is mine.
e.g. It is my book.
e.g. I did it myself.
Second you
e.g. You have a book.
e.g. I will give you the book.
e.g. The book is yours.
e.g. It is your book.
e.g. You did it yourself.
Third he / she / it
e.g. He/she/ it has a book.
him / her / it
e.g. I will give him/her/it the book.
his / hers / its
e.g. The book is his/hers.
his / her / its
e.g. It is his/her book.
e.g. He did it himself / She did it herself.
Plural First we
e.g. We have some books.
e.g. Give us the books.
e.g. The books are ours.
e.g. They are our books.
e.g. We did it ourselves.
Second you
e.g. You have some books.
e.g. I will give you the books.
e.g. The books are yours.
e.g. They are your books.
e.g. You did it yourselves.
Third they
e.g. They have some books.
e.g. I will give them the books.
e.g. The books are theirs.
e.g. They are their books.
e.g. They did it themselves.

Relative Pronouns

The main problem with relative pronouns is distinguishing between who and whom. A simple way to determine which one is needed is to substitute a personal pronoun for the relative pronoun. If the personal pronoun used is he or she, then who should be used; if the personal pronoun used is him or her, then use whom. Look at the relevant sentences in the following chart.

Pronoun Used for Usage Example
who person/people subject pronoun I liked the woman. She was so friendly.
(Replace 'she') I liked the woman who was so friendly.
that thing/things
(sometimes people)
subject pronoun I wanted the dress. It was such a good price.
(Replace 'it') I wanted the dress that was such a good price.
I liked the woman. She was so friendly.
(Replace 'she') I liked the woman that was so friendly.
object (pronoun) The dress was a good price. I saw it at Baileys.
(Replace 'it') The dress that I saw at Baileys was a good price.
which thing/things subject pronoun The dress was a good price. I saw it at Baileys.
(Replace 'it') The dress, which I saw at Baileys, was a good price.
object pronoun I wanted the dress. It was such a good price.
(Replace 'it') The dress, which I wanted, was such a good price.
whose person/people possessive pronoun I have a friend. His parents are rich.
(Replace 'his') I have a friend whose parents are rich.
whom person/people object pronoun The girl is Susan. I like her a lot.
(Replace 'her') The girl whom I like a lot is Susan.
object after a preposition She is the girl. I told you about her.
(Replaces 'her') She is the girl about whom I told you / She is the girl whom I told you about.
where place there/it The shop is downtown. We work there.
(Replace 'there') The shop where we work is downtown.

Updated September 10 2014 by Student & Academic Services

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