Pronouns are small words that take the place of a noun. We can use a pronoun instead of a noun. Pronouns are words like: he, you, ours, themselves, some, each… If we didn’t have pronouns, we would have to repeat a lot of nouns. We would have to say things like:
- Do you like the president? I don’t like the president. The president is too pompous.
With pronouns, we can say:
- Do you like the president? I don’t like him. He is too pompous.
Personal pronouns represent specific people or things. We use them depending on:
- number: singular (eg: I) or plural (eg: we)
- person: 1st person (eg: I), 2nd person (eg: you) or 3rd person (eg: he)
- gender: male (eg: he), female (eg: she) or neuter (eg: it)
- case: subject (eg: we) or object (eg: us)
We use personal pronouns in place of the person or people that we are talking about. My name is Josef but when I am talking about myself I almost always use “I” or “me”, not “Josef”. When I am talking direct to you, I almost always use “you”, not your name. When I am talking about another person, say John, I may start with “John” but then use “he” or “him”. And so on.
Here are the personal pronouns, followed by some example sentences:
Examples (in each case, the first example shows a subject pronoun, the second an object pronoun):
- I like coffee.
- John helped me.
- Do you like coffee?
- John loves you.
- He runs fast.
- Did Ram beat him?
- She is clever.
- Does Mary know her?
- It doesn’t work.
- Can the engineer repair it?
- We went home.
- Anthony drove us.
- Do you need a table for three?
- Did John and Mary beat you at doubles?
- They played doubles.
- John and Mary beat them.
When we are talking about a single thing, we almost always use it. However, there are a few exceptions. We may sometimes refer to an animal as he/him or she/her, especially if the animal is domesticated or a pet. Ships (and some other vessels or vehicles) as well as some countries are often treated as female and referred to as she/her. Here are some examples:
- This is our dog Rusty. He‘s an Alsation.
- The Titanic was a great ship but she sank on her first voyage.
- My first car was a Mini and I treated her like my wife.
- Thailand has now opened her border with Cambodia.
For a single person, sometimes we don’t know whether to use he or she. There are several solutions to this:
- If a teacher needs help, he or she should see the principal.
- If a teacher needs help, he should see the principal.
- If a teacher needs help, they should see the principal.
We often use it to introduce a remark:
- It is nice to have a holiday sometimes.
- It is important to dress well.
- It‘s difficult to find a job.
- Is it normal to see them together?
- It didn’t take long to walk here.
We also often use it to talk about the weather, temperature, time and distance:
- It‘s raining.
- It will probably be hot tomorrow.
- Is it nine o’clock yet?
- It‘s 50 kilometres from here to Cambridge.
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