Pronouns are single words that refer to or take the place of nouns or other pronouns.
Jan made an appointment with her teacher. (Her refers to Jan.) Barbara kept parakeets in the cage. --> She kept them in a cage.
This Microlab will help you:
- - understand the many uses of pronouns
- - recognize correct pronoun choice
- - use pronouns correctly in your own writing
|Reciprocal||--||each other, one another|
|Indefinite||anyone/anybody, no one/nobody, someone/somebody, everyone/everybody, each, either, neither, some, most, any, all, none||some, most, any, all, none, both, few, many, others, several|
Summary of pronouns
I. Clear Pronouns:
Pronouns must refer clearly to the nouns they replace (which are called antecedents). The reader will be confused if a pronoun seems to refer to more than one word in the sentence, or if the pronoun doesn't refer to any specific word:
The girls played softball with the boys, and they enjoyed the game. --> To whom does they refer? The boys? The girls? Both? The girls played softball with the boys, and everyone enjoyed the game. --> Everyone makes it clear that both the boys and the girls enjoyed the game!
II. Agreeing in Number and Gender:
Pronouns should agree in number and gender with their antecedents.
If the antecedent is singular, then the pronoun is also singular; if the antecedent is plural, then the pronoun is also plural (See the "Summary of Pronouns" Chart for help!):
The bee (singular) returned to its (plural) hive. The bees (plural) returned to their (plural) hive.
III. Antecedents Connected with "And":
When a pronoun refers to two nouns and pronouns joined by "and" or "both... and...," the pronoun is plural:
Both Joe and Carol wore their new hats.
IV. Antecedents after "each" and "every":
Nouns following "each" and "every" require a singular pronoun:
Each of the calculators had its own case.
V. "Neither... nor" and "Either... or":
When a pronoun refers to two subjects joined by “or,” “either… or,” or “neither…nor,” the subject closer to the pronoun determines whether the pronoun is singular or plural:
Either states or counties should re-develop their street roads. Neither the store nor the bank will open its doors today.
VI. Antecedents that End with "s":
Some nouns ending in "s" (like "politics") are plural in form but singular in meaning. They agree with singular pronouns:
Mathematics has its difficult areas.
VII. Indefinite Pronouns (See Chart on Page 1):
Indefinite pronouns refer to people, places, objects, or things without pointing to a specific one. The rules for them are based on which type of pronoun it is:
- Indefinite pronouns that end in -one or –body are always singular. These words include anyone, everyone, someone, one, anybody, somebody, and nobody:
- Anyone that didn't study failed his test.
- The indefinite pronouns both, few, many, others, and several are always plural:
- Both of my chickens lost their favorite toys.
- The indefinite pronouns all, any, more, most, none, and some can be singular or plural, depending on how they are used:
Some fo the property lost its value.
Some of the farmers lost their lands.
VIII. Collective Antecendents:
Collective nouns (group, family, class) should have singular or plural pronouns depending upon whether the noun refers to its individual members or as a single unit:
Singular - The crew chooses its captains each spring.
Plural - The crew returned to their homes for Easter.
Feminine pronouns are used to refer to feminine nouns and pronouns; masculine pronouns refer to masculine nouns and pronouns:
Sara ate her cake.
Oliver threw his toy at Sara.
X. Nominative (Subjective) Case (See Chart At Top):
The nominative case should be used when the pronoun is the subject of the sentence. This is also the case if there is a compound subject, meaning there are two nouns in the subjected connected with “and”:
He had lunch with Joan.
Steve and I are Joan's best friends. --> If there is a conjunction between your pronouns, try to say the sentence with just one pronoun at a time. If the pronoun sounds correct individually, then it's correct with the conjunction!
XI. Objective Case (See Chart At Top):
The objective case should be used when the pronoun is the object of the verb or a preposition (basically…any pronoun that is not the subject of the sentence):
Nate should give her the tickets.
Jerry came to the party with us.
XII. Who and Whom:
Use who as the subject of a sentence:
Who put this frog in my tea? --------> She put the frog in my tea.
Show me the person who did it. --------> He did it.
Use whom as the object of a sentence:
She will hire whom you recommend. --------> You recommend him.
To whom do you wish to speak? --------> You wish to speak with her.
If you can answer the question with a nominative pronoun, use "who"; if you can answer with an objective pronoun, use "whom".
XIII. Possessive and Independent Possessive Cases (See Chart At Top):
The possessive case should be used before a noun to show ownership or possession:
Mike flew his kite.
Independent possessive pronouns may be used without a noun following them:
The notebook is mine.
Yours is the best paper.
XIV. Reflexive Pronouns (see Chart At Top):
Reflexive pronouns (myself, herself, themselves, etc.) are used to emphasize a noun or as object pronouns whenever the object has the same identity as the subject:
I'll look for the book myself.
You may help yourselves to more ice cream.
XV. Reciprocal Pronouns:
Reciprocal pronouns (each other, one another) are used to express the relationship between the subject and object that are interacting:
Mark and his brother thanked each other.
XVI. Pronoun Reference to both Men and Women:
When referring to singular nouns like “doctor” or “teacher” that include both men and women, use his or her/her or his/etc. If only the masculine or feminine pronouns were used, the reader might assume that only males or females are being referred to. Both the noun and the pronoun could be made plural to avoid this problem:
A doctor must be willing to listen to his or her patients.
Doctors must be willing to listen to their patients.
Key Points to Remember:
- - Pronouns must refer clearly to the nouns they replace.
- - Pronouns must agree in number and gender with the nouns or other pronouns to which they refer.
- - The correct pronoun case is determined by the pronoun’s function in the sentence.
- - See the chart on page 1 if you need more help remembering which pronoun is which!
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