Chapter 1-3: What is a Pronoun?


A pronoun can replace a noun or another pronoun. You use pronouns like "he," "which," "none," and "you" to make your sentences less cumbersome and less repetitive.

An antecedent is the word, phrase, or clause that a pronoun contextually refers to.

Agreement refers to the fact that pronouns must agree with their antecedents. They must agree in three ways: person, number, and gender.

Grammarians classify pronouns into several types, including the personal pronoun, the demonstrative pronoun, the interrogative pronoun, the indefinite pronoun, the relative pronoun, the reflexive pronoun, and the intensive pronoun.

Note that pronouns that refer to things come before pronouns that refer to people. For example:

Mary took John’s book. → She took it from him.

Mary returned John’s book. → She returned it to him.

Doug and Jenn ate everything. → They ate it themselves.

The following table provides examples of the various types of pronouns. A detailed explanation of these examples follows in the sub-chapters.

Pronouns Used in Essays, Professional Papers, and Paragraphs

It's important to write text clearly so that your reader understands the message that you are conveying. One way that texts become confusing is when writers write several sentences that contain pronouns referring to a noun that was several sentences ago. It is important to "refresh" your reader's memory every once in awhile about the noun that is under discussion. As a rule, pronouns can refer to a noun that was mentioned earlier in the same sentence or to a noun that was mentioned in the sentence just before it; however, they should not refer to nouns further away that this (2 or more sentences). When this happens, it's time to "refresh" the noun:

INCORRECT: John walked to the store. He picked up some milk. He paid for it with a QR code.

CORRECT: John walked to the store. He picked up some milk. John paid for it with a QR code.

Tricky Pronoun Scenarios

"Us," and "we" before nouns

Sometimes writers will place the pronouns to emphasize the noun that follows it. The only problem is that sometimes even the best writers become confused about whether they should use "us" or "we." Take a look at these sentences. Are they correct?

INCORRECT: Us programmers love coffee.

INCORRECT: The coffee was put there for we programmers.

So how do you know when to use "us" or we?" The trick is to ignore everyone involved in the sentence and just focus on the pronoun. People would never say, "Us love coffee," but they would say "We love coffee." Similarly, people would never say "The coffee was put there for we," but instead they would say that "The coffee was put there for us."

CORRECT: We programmers love coffee.

CORRECT: The coffee was put there for us programmers.


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