Pronouns: what are they, and how do you use them?

Pronouns, by definition, replace a noun or subject. Instead of saying Sadie sits down to write content for business owner clients, you could say she sits down to write content for them.

Pronouns make your writing sound less redundant – no need to repeat a noun (person, place, thing, or idea which is materially engaging in the action in your sentence) or name over and over. Use a pronoun!

What are the types of pronouns? Subjective (is doing the action), objective (is the recipient of the action, either as a direct object or when paired with a preposition), and possessive (has ownership of something).

Subjective pronouns, including both singular (one subject) and plural (more than one), are these:

I / we
You / you
He / she / it / they

Objective pronouns are these:
Me / myself / our / ours / ourselves
Your / yours / yourself
Him / himself / her / herself / it / itself / them / themselves

Possessive pronouns are these:
My / mine / our / ours
Your / yours
His / hers / its / their / theirs

It’s not “between you and I” but “between you and me”. Not “between he and I” but “between him and me”.

He and I go to a concert.
The concert was attended by him and me.

Example: Sadie writes and edits for Paulina = she writes and edits for her. “She” is subjective, replacing my name; “her” refers to the object of the preposition “for” and answers the question for whom does the Sadie write and edit? In addition, the prepositional phrase “for her” is, itself, the direct object of the sentence, answering the question to whom or for whom the action is being done.

“For I” and “for she” are incorrect (I know, there’s the song for she’s a jolly good fellow… totally different situation with more complex prepositional / gerund clauses where there’s a sub-sentence within your actual sentence). So, back to the beginning of this paragraph, you wouldn’t say “for I” but “for me”.

Its / it’s is a commonly misused pronoun because it’s (see what I did there?) both a pronoun and a contraction of it is. Same with lets / let’s – the former is a verb meaning “to allow or permit”; the latter is a contraction of let us and is subjective.

Let’s go to the concert.
Uber lets attendees go to the concert responsibly.

The dog licked its paw. Possessive: the paw belongs to the dog. No apostrophe.
It’s going to rain later today. “It is” – contraction of pronoun and verb. Apostrophe.

If you’re using “its / it’s”, simply replace it with it is. If it makes sense to add the verb, then you’ve used the right format!

Quick note on apostrophes (that little comma in the dang air at the end of a word which denotes possession) – ask yourself if the word is plural (more than one) or if something belongs to it. All the moms waited for the dance class to end. “Moms” is simply referring to multiple of the same subject. “Mom’s” would indicate something belonging to one mom. Mom’s car sat in the parking lot outside the dance studio.

Moms’ translates as something belonging to more than one mom.

So, there you go – a brief rundown on pronouns’ type and correct usage! Honestly, the best advice is to run everything you write through a grammar check in Word. There are online programs too, just keep in mind they’re not all actually correct for everything. But they’ll catch most mistakes.

However – and here’s the catch – grammar isn’t always necessarily supposed to be the most formal adherence to the rules. Sometimes formal grammar inhibits reading comprehension and alienates your reader. It takes skill and practice to know which rules to follow and which to let slide.

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