Pronouns are words that take the place of nouns. They provide a shortcut to avoid repeating any persons, places, or things. Some examples of pronouns include his, her, she, he, their, and it.
- Melina is writing a letter to her mother. (Her stands in for Melina’s.)
- When Jack and Jill fell down, they had to go to the hospital. (They stands in for Jack and Jill.)
Rules to follow when using pronouns
Each pronoun must obey the following conventions:
- Agree in person, gender, and number with the noun it replaces.
- Provide Samantha with her class schedule.
- Provide the students with their class schedules.
- For clarity, pronouns often appear after the specific noun to which it is referring (or the antecedent).
- The car was damaged after it hit a pole. (It clearly refers to car.)
- After the car hit a pole it was damaged. (It is unclear whether it refers to car or pole.)
Errors encountered when using pronouns
When referring to a company or institution, use the pronoun it.
- Incorrect: Saint Mary’s University accepts letters of appeal from their students.
- Correct: Saint Mary’s University accepts letters of appeal from its students.
Only use the pronoun you when referring to one specific person
- Incorrect: In the 1900s, you were not able to vote.
- Correct: In the 1900s, women were not able to vote.
Depending on how they are used, pronouns ending with –self or –selves can be either reflexive or intensive. Use reflexive pronouns like myself, yourself, or themselves as the object of a verb or preposition, and not the subject of a sentence. When used as intensive pronouns, these same words reinforce the subject of a sentence.
- Incorrect: Myself and Adam bought movie tickets.
- Reflexive: I bought myself a movie ticket. Or I bought a movie ticket for myself.
- Intensive: I bought the tickets myself. Or I myself bought the tickets.