Jane Straus - Pronoun Usage

Pronoun Usage


How Inflection Influences Meaning

Notice now the meaning of the sentence changes when the word in italics is emphasized. Perhaps the lesson here is not to carry on an argument via e-mail.

He didn’t say that. (It must have been someone else.)
He didn’t say that. (You are mistaken.)
He didn’t say that. (Perhaps he wrote it instead.)
He didn’t say that. (He said something different.)

Pronoun Usage


Have you ever wondered whether to use I or me in a sentence? If so, you are not alone. I can help you feel confident with your pronoun choices.


Definition: A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun. Pronouns can be in one of three cases: Subject, Object, or Possessive.


Tip: Subject pronouns are used when the pronoun is the subject of the sentence. You can remember subject pronouns easily by filling in the blank subject space for a simple sentence.


Example: ______ did the job.
I, you, he, she, it, we,
and they all fit into the blank and are, therefore, subject pronouns.


Subject pronouns are also used if they rename the subject. They follow to be verbs such as is, are, was, were, am, and will be.  


It is he.

This is she speaking.

It is we who are responsible for the decision to downsize.  


In spoken English, most people tend to follow to be verbs with object pronouns. Many English teachers support (or at least have given in to) this distinction between written and spoken English.


Example: It could have been them.

Better: It could have been they.


Example: It is just me at the door.

Better: It is just I at the door.


Object pronouns are used in all other situations: direct object, indirect object, object of the preposition. Object pronouns are me, you, him, her, it, us, and them.



Jean talked to him.

Are you talking to me?


To be able to choose pronouns correctly, you must learn to identify clauses. A clause is a group of words containing a verb and subject. An independent clause can stand on its own.



She is hungry.

I am feeling well today.


A dependent clause begins with words such as although, since, if, when, and because. Dependent clauses cannot stand on their own.



Although she is hungry...

Since I am feeling well...


If a sentence contains more than one clause, isolate the clauses so that you can decide which pronoun is correct.



Dependent Clause [Although she is hungry,] Independent Clause [she will give him some of her food.]

Dependent Clause [Although this gift is for him,] Independent Clause [I would like you to have it.]

Jane Strauss