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Parts of Speech–The Building Blocks of Sentences (Part Four)

Jan 08, 14 Parts of Speech–The Building Blocks of Sentences (Part Four)

In the first installment of this blog, I wrote about nouns and verbs. In the second one, I continued writing about articles, adjectives, and adverbs. The third part discussed prepositions, objects, conjunctions, and interjections. For this one, I will focus on pronouns, a part of speech with which many writers struggle. However, I have found that just a quick refresher helps writers with their pronoun mistakes. Though pronouns are demanding and a bit confusing, they are not difficult to improve.

First of all, just what is a pronoun? A pronoun does one of two actions:

  • Pronouns refer to nouns
  • Pronouns take the place of nouns.

In Part 1 of this series, I wrote that all sentences must have subjects, which are most often nouns, but the subject can also be a pronoun. Thus, a pronoun has four forms:

  • subject pronoun
  • object pronoun
  • possessive pronoun
  • relative pronoun

Let’s start with the subject pronoun.

Subject Pronoun

A subject pronoun is one that takes the place of the subject noun. In other words, the pronoun becomes the subject of the sentence. Subject pronoun words include the following:

I

You

We

She

He

It

They

Who

In each example, the first sentence has a subject that is a noun while the second one uses the pronoun.

Example 1

  • Technology has some really cool advantages.
  • It has some really cool advantages.

Example 2

  • The scientist found a cure to the ailment while she researched something else.
  • She found a cure to the ailment while she researched something else.

Example 3

  • Dr. Jones works hard to better understand his patient’s health.
  • He works hard to better understand his patient’s health.

Example 4

  • Astronauts must go through much preparation and testing before going into space.
  • They must go through much preparation and testing before going into space.

Notice that in each of the examples, the pronoun matched both in gender and number. This is crucial for pronoun use clarity. The other important piece of advice in using pronouns is to make sure that when they replace a noun, it is absolutely crystal clear to which noun the pronoun refers. This is true for all forms of the pronoun: subject, object, possessive, and relative.

Object Pronoun

Where the subject pronoun replaces the noun, the object pronoun is that which is used as objects of verbs and prepositions. As Part 3 explains, objects of verbs are those that receive the action of the subject where the object of the preposition ends the prepositional phrase. Object pronouns include the following:

Me

You

Her

Him

It

Us

Them

Whom

Let’s look at some examples of object pronouns.

Example of objects of verbs:

  • The professor taught them.
  • Learning to use technology has plagued her.
  • They enjoy studying us.
  • I love him.

In all of these examples the object pronouns follow the verbs.

Examples of objects of prepositions:

  • Dr. Smith checks on it.
  • Penny tests the land around her.
  • He walks through them.
  • Technology reveals much about us.

In these latter examples, like with objects of verbs, the object pronouns follow the prepositions (e.g. on, around, through, about).

Possessive Pronouns

As the name denotes, possessive pronouns are those that show possession, otherwise known as showing ownership. Here are the possessive pronoun words:

My

Mine

Your

Yours

Her

Hers

His

It

Its

Our

Ours

Their

Theirs

Whose

Here are some examples of possessive pronouns:

  • Our dog chews on her duck toy all of the time.
  • Whose book is this?
  • The book is hers.
  • The computer lost its power.
  • You finished your education last year.
  • The boy grows his own vegetables for the science project.
  • My laboratory locks at midnight.

In each example, the pronoun possesses the noun following it.

Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns introduce relative clauses. I will talk more about relative clauses in another article, but here are the words of relative pronouns:

That

Who

Whom

Whoever

Whomever

Whose

Which

When a relative pronoun refers to a noun, it is important to note that certain pronouns are used for people while others for places and things.

Relative Pronouns for People

Who

Whom

Whoever

Whomever

Whose

Technically, the word ‘that’ can also refer to people, but it is not preferred and also a bit weird.

Relative Pronouns for Places and Things

Which

That

Whose

Of Which

Remember how a few grammar blog articles ago I said that English has rules but not really. Well, here is another example because sometimes where, when, what, and why can act as relative pronouns when referring to place, time, and explanation. Once again, those alleged rules of the English language don’t really exist.

Okay, so this is a lot to take in on pronouns, which is why they received their own blog. When using pronouns, we must be clear what nouns the pronouns refer to or replace; otherwise, only confusion remains with readers.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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About 

Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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