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personal pronoun

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Definition:

A pronoun that refers to a particular person, group, or thing. Like all pronouns, personal pronouns can take the place of nouns and noun phrases.

These are the personal pronouns in English:

  • First-person singular: I (subject); me (object)
  • First-person plural: we (subject); us (object)
  • Second-person singular and plural: you (subject and object)
  • Third-person singular: he, she, it (subject); him, her, it (object)
  • Third-person plural: they (subject); them (object)
Note that personal pronouns inflect for case to show whether they are serving as subjects of clauses or as objects of verbs or prepositions.

Also note that all of the personal pronouns except you have distinct forms indicating number, either singular or plural. Only the third-person singular pronouns have distinct forms indicating gender: masculine (he, him), feminine (she, her), and neuter (it). A personal pronoun (such as they) that can refer to both masculine and feminine entities is called a generic pronoun.

See also:

Exercises:

Examples and Observations:

  • "Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much."
    (Oscar Wilde)


  • "From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it."
    (Groucho Marx)


  • "I stopped believing in Santa Claus when my mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph."
    (Shirley Temple)


  • "She had driven her father into town, stopping along the way as he pointed out sights, showed her where he used to play as a child, told her stories he hadn't thought about for years.

    "They went to the museum, where he showed Bee her ancestors . . .."
    (Jane Green, The Beach House. Viking Penguin, 2008)


  • "Among naturalists, when a bird is seen well beyond its normal range, it is called an accidental."
    (E.L. Doctorow, The Waterworks. Macmillan, 1994)


  • "I got the two carbons from a drawer and took them to her. As she did each one I took it and gave the signature a look."
    (Rex Stout, A Right to Die. Viking Press, 1964)


  • They told me you had been to her,
    And mentioned me to him:
    She gave me a good character,
    But said I could not swim.

    He sent them word I had not gone
    (We know it to be true):
    If she should push the matter on,
    What would become of you?
    (from a letter read by the White Rabbit in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, 1865)


  • "[M]ake the board of directors of British Telecom go out and personally track down every last red phone box that they sold off to be used as shower stalls and garden sheds in far-flung corners of the globe, make them put them all back, and then sack them--no, kill them. Then truly will London be glorious again."
    (Bill Bryson, Notes From a Small Island. Doubleday, 1995)


  • Personal Pronouns and Antecedents
    "Personal pronouns are usually definite.

    "Being definite, 3rd person personal pronouns are normally only used when the person or thing they refer to has already been mentioned in the conversation or written text. The noun phrase in the previous conversation or written text which refers to the same person or thing as the personal pronoun is called the pronoun's 'antecedent.' In each of the examples below, the first [italicized] item is most naturally interpreted as the antecedent of the later personal pronoun, also [in italics].
    - John came home late. He was drunk.
    - Mary told John that she was leaving home.
    - I saw John and Mary this morning. They seem to have made up."
    (Jame R. Hurford, Grammar: A Student's Guide. Cambridge University Press, 1994)


  • Backward and Forward Reference
    "Personal pronouns are most typically used for backward (anaphoric) reference:
    The manager phoned me back. He was extremely apologetic.
    Occasionally a personal pronoun may be used to refer forward (cataphorically). Such uses are common in openings to written stories:
    She was walking along a tree-lined suburban road, unaware of what was about to befall her. Gillian Dawson had never been very aware of the people around her."
    (Ronald Carter and Michael McCarthy, Cambridge Grammar of English. Cambridge University Press, 2006)


  • Using Object Pronouns in Informal English
    "There are three situations where the object pronoun is sometimes used (especially in informal English) although it is the subject in terms of meaning:
    (A) After than or as in comparisons:
    E.g. They work longer hours than us.

    (B) In replies without a verb.
    E.g. 'I'm feeling very tired.' 'Me too.'

    (C) After the verb be (as complement).
    E.g. 'Is that the Prime Minister, in the middle of the photograph?' 'Yes, that's him.'
    In all three cases, the subject pronoun (we, I, he) is uncommon and formal, although some people think it is 'correct.' The object pronoun is much more common.

    "To be safe, for (A) and (B) above, use the subject pronoun + auxiliary; everyone is happy with this!
    E.g. Her sister can sing better than she can.
    'I am feeling very tired.' 'I am, too.'"
    (Geoffrey Leech, Benita Cruickshank, and Roz Ivanic, An A-Z of English Grammar & Usage, 2nd ed. Pearson, 2001)
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