Making a Case for Pronouns
Pronouns are also one of three cases: subjective, objective, and possessive. The way you use a pronoun in a sentence determines which case you should use.
Subjective pronouns include
I, you, he, she, it, we, and they.
Objective pronouns include
me, you, him, her, it, us, and them. (Note that youand itare included on both lists; you'll see why later.)
Possessive pronouns include
my, your, his, her, its, our, and their. (Possessive pronouns are regarded as adjectives by some grammarians. These pronouns won't be discussed in this section because people rarely have a problem with using them correctly.)
Writers often can't decide whether to use
To determine which pronoun is correct, just delete the noun that the pronoun refers to (
No-Brainer, Part One: Subjective Pronouns
Here's the first part of a no-brainer: Subjective pronouns are used as the subjects of sentences (whom or what you're talking about). You would say, for instance:
No problem seeing the right form in those sentences, is there? For some reason, though, a problem occasionally arises when subjects are compound. You might read, for instance:
These pronouns are used incorrectly. Because the pronouns are used as subjects of the sentence, they should all be in the subjective case:
If you're not sure if you've used the right pronoun, try writing or saying the sentence with only one subject. You'd never say:
Since those pronouns sound wrong when they're by themselves, you know that they're the wrong case. Change the pronouns to the ones you'd normally use when there's just one subject.
No-Brainer, Part Two: Objective Pronouns
Here's part two of the no-brainer: Objective pronouns are used as the objects in sentences. You would say, for instance:
As with compound subjects, problems arise with compound objects. People will write or say sentences like this:
Again, each pronoun is used incorrectly in these sentences. Because the pronouns are used as objects in these sentences, they should all be in the objective case:
Remember that pronouns that are predicate nominatives should be subject pronouns. Predicate nominatives, you recall, are nouns or pronouns used after linking verbs (usually forms of
The way to test yourself if you're not sure if you've used the right pronoun is to use the same trick that you used for the subjective pronoun problem, but substitute the objective form; that is, write or say the sentence with only one object. You'd never say:
Since those pronouns sound wrong when they're by themselves, you know that they're the wrong case. Change the pronouns to the ones you'd normally say when the sentence has only one object.
Try the interactive quizzes on pronoun forms at these Web sites:
So why were
Some Sticky Situations with Than and As
Another problem with pronouns sometimes arises in a sentence with words that are omitted following
Look at the following examples:
When the words that have been omitted after
(Either way, Jim's in quite a snit, isn't he?)
The same type of confusion can result when words following
This implies that, to the husband, physics and his wife are of equal interest. Now, look at the correction:
This signifies that both spouses are equally interested in physics — which, one hopes, is the intended meaning here.
By mentally adding the missing verb at the end of a sentence using