A pronoun is used to replace a noun or noun phrase, known as an antecedent, in a sentence. The pronoun should agree in number and in person with its antecedent. Plural subjects, such as “people,” will require a plural antecedent. Singular subjects, such as “he,” will require a singular antecedent.Here are some examples:
- People are curious; they ask questions.
In this example, the pronoun (“they”) agrees with the antecedent (“people”) in both number and in person. Both are plural and require the third-person.
- Betsy worked hard to perfect her writing.
In this example, we know the gender of the subject. The antecedent (“Betsy”) agrees in number (singular) and in person (second-person) with the pronoun (“her”).
- The student worked hard to perfect their writing.
Use the pronoun “their” for one or multiple subjects of whose gender is unknown, or for a subject whose preferred pronouns are they/them.
What if I have more than one subject?
For sentences that feature compound subjects (more than one subject), separate the two subjects to determine which pronoun is correct. Here are some examples:
|Benny and me left to get ice cream.||Benny left to get ice cream.
Me left to get ice cream.
|The pronoun “me” is incorrect here.|
|Benny and I left to get ice cream.||Benny left to get ice cream.
I left to get ice cream.
|This is an appropriate use of the pronoun “I.”|
There are object, subject, possessive, interrogative, relative, indefinite, and demonstrative pronouns. Here are some examples of each kind of pronoun, and when to use them.
*Pronouns may sacrifice clarity in your writing if you are discussing multiple subjects at a time. Make sure the reader knows directly who or what you are referring to – pronouns are not always necessary.
- “Pronouns.” The Writing Center at George Mason U, 2020.