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Pronoun Choice

Pronoun Choice

Author: Gavin McCall

This lesson discusses pronouns and their different forms.

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Welcome back to English composition. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me. What are we going to learn today? We're going to learn all about the four types of pronouns, from subject and object pronouns to possessive and indefinite pronouns. As we remember, pronouns are one of the eight parts of speech, along with nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections.

Pronouns are words that stand in for a noun or a noun phrase. And an antecedent, that's the name for whatever noun or noun phrase that a pronoun stands in for or represents. The most common pronouns are I, he, she, it, you, him, her, me, they, my, our, your, their, this, that, those, these, who, and whose. Don't worry, you won't have to remember all of them and most should be very familiar to you. And of course, there are many, many more out there.

It's important to know them because pronouns have to agree with their antecedents both in number and gender. So knowing which one to use for what purpose is an important skill. As we'll see in this lesson, pronouns are versatile tools for writers as they can serve several functions in a sentence. Today, we'll cover subject, object, possessive, and indefinite pronouns in particular. Each of these types of differentiated by their purpose in the sentence.

The first type of pronouns we'll look at are subject pronouns. These refer to someone or something doing the action in the sentence. For example, in the sentence, he kicked the ball, the pronoun, he, is the subject pronoun, standing in for whatever man or boy kicked the ball and acting as the subject of the sentence in it's, his, place.

And if it was a girl or a woman kicking the ball, the pronoun I'd use would have to shift to match her gender, as in she kicked the ball even further. And the same goes for more than one antecedent. They kicked the ball until it went flat. In this example, it is also a pronoun because it's standing in for the ball.

As you might have already guessed after our discussion of subject pronouns, object pronouns are those that refer to someone or something that's being acted upon by the subject in the sentence. If for example, I said, the boy kicked me, I be using the pronoun me as an object pronoun, since in that sentence I or me is the object of the verb kick. Or if I was trying to say that the boy kicked his mother and his father, then I'd use a different pronouns. The boy kicked them, making sure to use the correct plural pronoun. And if he left his father alone, I'd write, the boy kicked her, referring only to his mother.

Possessive pronouns are a little different from either subject or object pronouns. These are used to indicate ownership and include words like mine, yours, his, hers, theirs, ours, and whose. They can be used indicate ownership of a thing, as in that book is hers.

Or if we want to know who the book belongs to, whose book is that? And just like subject and object pronouns possessives need to match the gender and the number of the antecedent they replace. For example, I think the book is actually theirs.

Probably the weirdest kind of pronouns are indefinite pronouns. As you might have guessed from the name, this group is the category pronoun that doesn't refer to something specific. There are three basic types of indefinite pronouns, universal pronouns, which include all, everybody, each, every, and both. Then there are partitives, which include any, anyone, anybody, either, neither, no, nobody, some, and someone. And finally quantifiers, including some, any, enough, many, and much.

One common error that writers make when using indefinite pronouns is to use a plural verb, even though most of these require a singular verb. For example in the sentence, everybody wants to rule the world, it could seem like everybody would use a plural verb, since the pronoun is referring to more than one person. But in reality, it needs the singular as it's essentially the same thing as saying that each person wants to rule the world.

And if I said that the boy kicked someone, that would also be an acceptable use of an indefinite pronoun, even though this one isn't standing in for the subject, but the object of the verb. And if I said that the boy has done enough for one day, I'd also be using an indefinite pronoun.

What did we learn today? We learned about the four primary types of pronouns, subject, object, possessive, and indefinite pronouns, and we got to see some of each in use. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me.

Terms to Know

The noun or noun phrase that a pronoun stands in for or represents.


A word that stands in for a noun or noun phrase in a sentence.