myQBook English Grammar Concepts

Personal Pronouns

A pronoun that refers to a specific noun is called a personal pronoun. Some common personal pronouns are: I, you, he, she, they, it. Personal pronouns almost always have antecedents somewhere before them.

Personal pronouns are classified in three ways:

·         number

·         case

·         person

In the number classification, a pronoun is classified as either singular or plural. For example, “he” is a singular pronoun and refers to a singular noun while “they” is a plural pronoun and refers to a plural noun.

In the case classification, a pronoun is classified in the following 3 categories:

a)      Nominative: If the pronoun is the subject of the verb (it takes the place of a subject noun), then it is in the nominative case (a subject pronoun). For example: I jumped out of the plane.

b)      Objective: If the pronoun is the object of the verb or a preposition (it takes the place of an object noun), then it is in the objective case (an object pronoun). For example: Joe passed the ball to me.

c)       Possessive: If the pronoun is showing possession in the sentence, then it is in the possessive case. For example: His bike is brand new.

In the person classification, a pronoun is classified as first, second or third person.

a)      First person: The person speaking is called the first person. For example: I couldn’t believe my eyes.

b)      Second person: The person spoken to is called the second person. For example: You are in big trouble.

c)       Third person: The person spoken about is called the third person. For example: She is the smartest person in school.

The table below shows the personal pronouns in the 3 categories.


1st Person

2nd Person

3rd Person













he, she, it







him, her, it



my, mine

our, ours

your, yours

your, yours

his, her, hers, its

their, theirs


The following are some rules to keep in mind to correctly use personal pronouns.

A)     Singular pronouns refer to singular antecedents. Each, either, neither, anyone, anybody, everyone, everybody, someone, somebody, no one, and nobody are all singular, and pronouns referring to them should also be singular.

For example: Each of the boys has his own car.

Here, "each" and "his" are singular in form.

B)      When two nouns are joined by "and", use the plural form of the pronoun.

For example: Soon after the wedding reception was over, the bride and the groom went on their honeymoon.

In the above sentence, although the "bride" and the "groom" are singular, they are joined by "and" and hence together they are plural. Therefore, we use the pronoun "their" to refer to them.

C)      When a plural and a singular noun are joined by “or” or “nor”, the pronoun should agree with the antecedent closer to the pronoun.

For example: Neither the sons nor the father brought his guitar to the music class today.

Here, the pronoun referring to the father and the sons is singular because the singular noun "father" is closest to the pronoun.

D)     When two or all three person types are used in a sentence, the second person comes first, the third person comes next, and the first person comes last.

For example: You, he and I have done well on our final exams.

In this example, all three person types are used in the sentence. “You”, the second person, comes first; “he”, the third person, comes next; and “I”, the first person, comes last.

E)      With collective nouns, we use singular or plural pronouns depending on the way that the collective noun is used in the sentence. When the group that a collective noun refers to is talked about as one whole unit, we use the singular personal pronoun. When the group that a collective noun refers to is talked about as separate units, we use the plural personal pronoun.

For example: The team has selected Jenny as its captain.
The team quickly took their positions on the field.

In the first sentence, the collective noun “team” takes “its” as its pronoun because the team acted as one unit when it selected a captain.

In the second sentence, the collective noun “team” takes “their” as its pronoun because the team members had different positions on the field, so they acted as individual units.


F)      The pronoun “it” is used for the following cases:

a)      Lifeless objects: Here is the science book you asked for. Please put it in your backpack.

b)      Animals: The horse fell and injured its leg.

c)       As a subject before the verb “to be”: It is easy to be a follower. (The pronoun “it” is used as a temporary subject when the verb “to be” is followed by the real subject)

d)      To refer to day, time or weather. For example: “It is cold outside”, “It is Sunday today”, “It is 5 o’clock now”.


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