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Pronoun Choice

Pronoun Choice

Author: Martina Shabram

Identify or correct errors in pronoun choice and reference.

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Source: [image of rabbit, public domain,] [image of voting, public domain,] [image of couch, public domain,] [image of dog on walk, public domain,]

Video Transcription

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Hello, students. My name is Dr. Martina Shabram. And I will be your instructor for today's lesson. I'm genuinely excited to teach you these concepts. So let's get started.

In today's lesson, we'll look at pronouns. We'll learn more about how to choose pronouns correctly, how they function grammatically within sentences, and how to identify and correct errors in pronoun use. This lesson is going to cover errors of pronoun choice and pronoun reference.

If we think back to the parts of speech, we'll remember that a pronoun is a word that stands in for a noun or noun phrase. So if that pronoun is standing in for something else, we need to be sure that we select the correct pronoun to match what it's meant to replace. So when we think about pronoun choice, we need choosing the right personal pronoun to function as you need it to in that sentence.

Pronoun choice is particularly important when we're talking about people and using personal pronouns, which are English pronouns that identify gender, person, number, and case. If a pronoun stands in for any noun, personal pronouns stand in for a specific person or thing, such as in these sentences.

See how she replaces Mary's name, thereby representing her? There are a few different kinds of personal pronouns-- subjects, objects, and those that show possession. And it's important to use them correctly and reference appropriately with them.

For example, you wouldn't want to refer to Mary as it. So let's go into depth on each of these and get more comfortable using them in sentences. Pronouns that always show possession don't use an apostrophe, such as the pronouns my, mine, her, or hers. You can see that at work in sentences like these. If we were using the person's name instead of the pronoun, we would use an apostrophe to indicate possession, such as this.

Another way that pronouns are used is as subjects. The subject is who or what the sentence is about. And therefore, the subject pronoun is also what the sentence will be about. Some personal pronouns are just for subjects, like I, he, she, it, they, we, and who. Sentences that use those will look something like these.

In other circumstances, we might have compound subjects, where there's a whole phrase that the sentence is about, such as in this sentence. Here, the action of lying down on the couch with the blanket, all of that together, is the subject.

So what if we're using a pronoun as the subject in one of these compound constructions? Which pronoun should I use? The rule is that you should use the same pronoun you would use if it alone were the subject. So if the sentence is the dog and I are going for a walk, I wouldn't say me are going for a walk. I would say I am going for a walk. And so by the same token, I wouldn't write the dog and me are going for a walk. I'd write the dog and I are going for a walk.

Other times, pronouns function as objects within sentences. So an object in a sentence is the item acted upon by the subject in a sentence. Some pronouns are always used for the object of a sentence, like me, her, him, them, us, and whom. Those would look like this in sentences.

As you notice, the object in both of these sentences is the thing being affected by the verb. That's how the object functions. But objects can also complete the meaning of a propositional phrase, such as in sentences like this.

And here, again, we also have to be careful when we use pronouns. We wouldn't say, do you want to race I. So the pronoun me is what should be used here. Do you want to race my brother and me.

Some pronouns can work for either subjects or objects, like the pronouns you and it, such as in this sentence. The it there is the subject of the sentence. But it can also be for an object, such as if I wrote-- the it now is the stereo, the object of the sentence. I, the subject, want to play music, the verb, on it. So we need to be careful when we use object pronouns and subject pronouns and make sure that we're using them correctly without leading to any unintended meaning.

So in order to identify and correct errors, I'm going to give you a little passage with a few errors in pronoun choice and reference. Go ahead and pause the video here for a moment so that you can read through this passage and identify any errors that you see. And then go ahead and press play when you're ready.

So what errors did you find? First, let's highlight all the pronouns we see. So which are correct and which aren't? First, this one here, that's correct.

But here, I see a problem-- he and me. Would I say, he had to climb? Well, yeah. But would I say, me had to climb? No. So this should be he and I for this compound subject.

OK. Here's an object pronoun. Is this used correctly? We are climbing down the hill to the beach. So it in this case stands in for beach. That's correct. And the pronouns here are all correct.

But what about here? This is a possessive pronoun. The owner belongs to the dog, or perhaps vice versa. So that's phrased correctly. But in this possessive pronoun, the ball also belongs to the dog. But do we use an apostrophe on possessive pronouns? No. So this should be.

All right, here's another error. They gave the ball to he. The verb is give, right. And the subject, then, is they-- those giving. They is a subject pronoun. So that is correct. But what about he? That's also a subject pronoun. But here in this sentence construction, the dog is the object. So this should be, they gave the ball to him.

So what did we learn today? We reviewed how pronouns work as a part of speech. Then we looked at subject pronouns, object pronouns, and pronouns that indicate possession. And we learned how to identify and fix errors in their use.

Well, students, I hope you had as much fun as I did. Thank you.

Terms to Know

The item acted upon by the subject in a sentence.

Personal Pronoun

English pronouns that identify gender, person, number, and case.


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


Who or what the sentence is about.