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The faces of a pronoun

The faces of a pronoun

Author: LaShanda Lawrence


  • Explain what the different pronouns are for first, second, and third person and how they function in a sentence.
  • Explain how to avoid common errors with pronouns (e.g. possessive pronouns, unknown pronoun reference, and pronoun agreement).

This packet should help a learner seeking to understand English grammar and who is confused about pronouns. It will explain first person, second person, and third person pronouns.


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What is a personal pronoun?

Defines 1st, 2nd, 3rd person pronouns

Source: LaShanda Lawrence

1st, 2nd, 3rd person singular/plural pronouns

Types of Personal Pronouns

Possessive pronouns

Possessive pronouns precede a noun

Source: LaShanda Lawrence

Appropriate Pronoun Reference

Appropriate Pronoun Reference


A common mistake in writing, which causes readers to become confused, is the use of inappropriate pronouns to refer to something. As a writer, you need to understand pronoun reference and, when writing, you need to ensure that you use appropriate pronouns. Normally, pronouns must agree in person, number, and gender with their referent.


Example 1

Programmers need to attend to details or else your software is likely to fail.

The word programmers is not necessarily referring to the reader nor is it referring to the writer and so any pronoun referring to programmers should be third person plural.

Programmers need to attend to details or else their software is likely to fail.


Example 2

The teacher spoke to the boy and told her to go home.

Boy is a singular male noun and refers to neither the writer nor the reader and thus requires a third person singular male pronoun.

The teacher spoke to the boy and told him to go home.



Consider the following examples:

Someone has forgotten to hand in their assignment.

Notice that someone is singular but that the plural pronoun their is appropriate. In situations where the sex of some indefinite referent is unknown, it is acceptable to use the plural pronoun.

The dance troupe is changing its name to “Tango”.

The dance troupe is making a quick change into their costumes.


Notice that in the first sentence the singular pronouns its is used while in the second sentence the plural their is used. When you are referring to some group as a single unit, as in the first sentence, it is appropriate to use a singular pronoun. However, when you are referring to the individual members of the group, as in the second sentence, it is appropriate to use a plural pronoun.