Pronoun Summary



Pronoun Diagnostic : a tool to help you identify specific points that need review

Personal Pronouns

Personal Pronouns: refer to personal nouns


Lea is dancing.   She enjoys dancing.
Sammy is dancing with  Lea.   He likes her.

She gave a demonstration to my friend and me.
She gave a demonstration to my friend and  I .

Indefinite Pronouns: refer to unknown persons or things


Everyone had his fishing pole.

Some had their fishing poles.

Everyone had their fishing pole. (informal usage)

Double Pronouns: refer to two personal nouns

Bachelor talking to date

Me and Diana got to know each other.
Diana and I got to know each other.

I had a good feeling about her and I
I had a good feeling about her and me

Reflexive Pronouns: refer to all or part of oneself

self dressed

I washed myself.
I dressed myself.

I brushed my teeth.
I shampooed my hair.

Genitive Pronouns (Determiners)

Genitive Pronouns:  mark nouns for possession 

Naughty Dog

Our dog is over here. / Ours is over here.  

All of the owners bring water for their (own) dogs.

One  should exercise one's dog. (impersonal)

You should exercise your dog. (impersonal)

They don't like dogs there. Their dislike is unusual. (impersonal)

Collective Genitive Pronouns: refer to the group or its individuals


The paparazzi made its purpose clear. It had a right to be outside her house.

The paparazzi placed their cameras right in her face. They were rude, even mean.

There / It Pronouns

There – Existence: refer to the existence of something

dipping cookies in milk

There is milk, yogurt and eggs on the table. (En-US)

There are milk, yogurt and eggs on the table. (En-Br)

There/Their: indicating location, existence or possession

Neighborhood Food Truck Events

Each week there is an event. location
Chefs prepare gourmet food-to-go. Their menus vary.

There's a new way to order lunch.

It / There Subjects: refer to weather, time, or existence

rain drops

Is it still raining?  It's cloudy.   (the weather)

Is there a rain on the street still?  (exists)

To do the work this way is easy. 

It  is easy to do the work this way. 

It Subj Placeholder: use it to refer to a moved content clause

Fred Armisen and Barak Obama

It is obvious to all that Fred is a funny comedian.
That Fred is a funny comedian  is obvious to all.

It amazed us what he said.
What he said amazed us.

It was a particularly funny joke.
There was a particularly funny joke.

It/This Reference: refer back to something

arrow pointing back

Apple is going to release a new operating systemIt will merge the laptop OS with the iPad and iPhone OS. 

Apple is going to release a new operating systemThis will be a huge step in merging the laptop OS with the iPad and iPhone OS.  

Cleft Sentences  (word grouping for emphasis)

Cleft Sentences:  shift emphasis to other sentence parts by moving content


His energy amazed me

What amazed me was his energy.

His energy was what amazed me.

It amazed me that he had so much energy.



What– Phrase: shift emphasis to another sentence part  ("fused-relative")


What he said  was funny.  (that + which)

What was funny  was his expression


Wh-ever Phrases: refer to an unknown one


Whatever you say is confidential.

You can take whomever you want.

Whatever way will be fine.


Antecedents (referring back to source noun)

Pronoun Antecedent: recognized clear pronoun reference

Putting the cart before the horse

By the time they arrived, my family was very hungry.

By the time my family arrived, they were very hungry.

Tracy gave Robin a recipe.  She is a talented cook. Tracy or Robin?

Gender Dispute

Gender & Pronouns: select pronouns that refer to both males and females 

photographerfamily portrait

Everyone in my family had their picture taken. (males, females, both?)

Citations to Fowler, Hudddleston and Pullam, Merriam-Webster, Robin Lakoff and others.   

Genitive Nouns:  indicate possession for people or things

The class' soccer team

The state's soccer team won several games.
The states' soccer teams won several games.

The goalpost's leg was broken.
The leg of the goal post was broken.


Verbs with Indirect Objects: indicate receivers of actions  (dative verbs)

A letter

My friend is bringing me a letter.

My friend is bringing a letter to me.

My friend is bringing me it.

Common Mistakes: avoid the "top 20" agreement errors

Jean Muffins 

Fashions come and go. * Everyone have problems balancing comfort with fashion.