Pronoun Errors

Pronouns like me, you, she, it, we, and they are used so that we do not have to constantly write out the name of some person, place, or thing.


Remember the following when using pronouns:

A pronoun must clearly refer to its antecedent.

In the following sentence the pronoun "she" refers back to Laura. "Laura" is the antecedent of "she."

Laura decided that she was going to buy a new pair of boots.

In some sentences it is unclear what the antecedent is for the pronoun:

Mary and her daughter baked bread in her new kitchen.

The possessive pronoun her in "her daughter" has a clear antecedent (Mary), but the pronoun in "her kitchen" could refer to either Mary or her daughter. The best solution is to rewrite the sentence:

Mary and her daughter baked bread in Mary's new kitchen.


A pronoun must agree with its antecedent.

INCORRECT: Mary finally got what they wanted.

Mary is presumably female and an individual; therefore, since pronouns must agree in gender and number with the antecedent the correct pronoun would be "she." If the gender of the antecedent is not evident in the sentence, the pronoun use can be handled in the following ways:

One solution is to use "his/her"

CORRECT: It is important for a person to maintain his/her health.

Another way to write the sentence is to make the antecedent plural:

CORRECT: It is important for persons to maintain their health.

Finally, the sentence can be written to eliminate the pronoun:

CORRECT: It is important for all people to stay healthy.

NOTE: Indefinite pronouns anybody, anyone, everybody, everyone, nobody, no one, somebody, someone, and each are considered singular; therefore, do not use "they," "their," or "them" to refer to one of them.

INCORRECT: Everyone ate their ice cream cones and left the picnic.

The same solutions apply: change the pronoun, change the antecedent, or rewrite the sentence.

CORRECT: Everyone ate his/her ice cream cone and left the picnic.

OR

CORRECT: All the people ate their ice cream cones and left the picnic.

OR

CORRECT: Everyone finished eating and left the picnic.

 


Pronoun Case

There are two pronoun cases, subjective and objective. When the pronoun is the doer of the action, we use subjective case; when the pronoun is the receiver of the action use the objective case.

Subjective: I, you, he/she/it, we, they

Objective: me, you, him/her/it, us, them

Much of the time, it is very easy to choose the correct pronoun. For example, we would not write "Me want to go with you" or "Give the book to they" because those sentences sound wrong. Clearly, it should be "I want to go with you" or "Give the book to them." However, many writers have difficulty when the pronoun is part of a compound subject or object.

Examples:
She/Her and George directed the play.

We decided to bake a cake for Luke and he/him.

The best way to choose the correct pronoun is to read the sentence without the word naming the other person.

Examples:
If George was not part of the sentence, the choice would be "She directed the play." Therefore, "She and George directed the play" is the correct way to write the sentence.

Also, because "We decided to bake a cake for him" is the correct way to write the sentence, we would therefore write "We decided to bake a cake for Luke and him."