As writers we would have difficulty expressing ourselves if we needed to repeat the same words over and over.  Consider the following:


        EXAMPLE 1


INCORRECT:           Maria and Rosa went to the store.  Maria and Rosaís mother did not know about it; therefore, Maria and Rosaís mother punished Maria and Rosa when Maria and Rosa got home.

Repeating the same nouns (Maria and Rosa) over and over again makes the passage above needlessly boring and monotonous. It is for this reason that we use pronouns; they take the place of nouns so we donít have to repeat the same words over and over.


CORRECT:               Maria and Rosa went to the store.  Their mother did not know about it; therefore, she punished them when they got home.

Pronouns are very useful to us, yet we must remember when writing to choose the appropriate kind of pronoun to take the place of a particular noun.  Study the following chart, which summarizes the three main types of pronouns:





Pronoun Type



Subject Pronouns


Object Pronouns


Possessive Pronouns





Do the action


Receive the action


Show ownership








I sing a song.

You sing a song.

He sings a song.

She sings a song.

It sings a song.



The teacher likes me

The teacher likes you.

The teacher likes him.

The teacher likes her.

The teacher likes it.

Before nouns

After verbs


This is my house.

This is your house.

This is his house.

This is her house.

This is its house.




This house is   mine.

This house is yours.

This house is his.

This house is hers.

This house is its.






Subject Pronouns

Object Pronouns

Possessive Pronouns

Before nouns

After verbs





We sing a song.

You sing a song.

They sing a song.



The teacher likes us.

The teacher likes you.

The teacher likes them.



This is our house.

This is your house.

This is their house.



This house is ours.

This house is yours.

This house is theirs.




Note that the pronoun its does not take an apostrophe (Ď).


        EXAMPLE 2


CORRECT: The company is laying off its employees.

possessive pronoun

(The employees belong to the company.)

Only the contraction for it is takes an apostrophe (itís)


        EXAMPLE 3


CORRECT: Itís a difficult time for everyone.

(It is)


I.  Frequent Errors


  1. Types of Pronouns


We must be aware of the kind of pronoun we need to use according to the function it has in the sentence. For example, if we use an object pronoun in the place of a subject pronoun, we produce the following error:


        EXAMPLE 4


 INCORRECT: Last night, me and my boyfriend went to a basketball game.

 The pronoun me has, in this case, been used incorrectly.  This use of me is only acceptable in very informal speech.  Me is not receiving the action in the sentence.  Me along with boyfriend are the subjects doing the action of going to the basketball game; therefore, we must substitute me for the corresponding subject pronoun in the chart, which is I.


CORRECT: Last night, my boyfriend and I went to a basketball game.


In the category of possessive pronouns, we must also remember the two different uses of these pronouns according to the position they take in a sentence.


      (Before Nouns)                                                (After Verbs)



If we donít make this distinction, the following error could result.


        EXAMPLE 6

                              INCORRECT:  You have none of yours relatives here.

The writer in this case confused the use of yours with yourYours is followed by the noun relatives; therefore, we must change yours to your, the type of possessive pronoun which is used before nouns.


CORRECT:  You have none of your relatives here.



Practice what you just learned by deciding which of the different types of pronouns best completes the blank in each sentence.  Bubble in the letter of your choice on your answer sheet.

  1. I donít think this pen is ________

A. your

B. yours

      C. youíre


  1. My sister and __________are going to the movies.


A. my

B. me

C. I


     3.  This looks like _________ book.

A.     mine

B.     my

C.     yours


4.  This house belongs to John and _____________; it is _________.

                                                                  A. my             5. A. ours

                                                                  B. me                  B. our

                                                                  C. mine               C. ourís




6.  Hunger is the number one killer in the world. ________elimination should be our first priority.                                               A. Its

                                                                              B. Itís

C. Them


  1.  Indefinite Pronouns.

There are other pronouns that, even when they seem to refer to plural nouns (more than one person or object), actually refer to singular nouns (only one person or object).  The following is a list of such indefinite pronouns:

one             nobody             each

anyone       anybody           either

everyone    everybody        neither

someone     somebody        no one

We must remember that these words are singular, so all other pronouns we use in the same sentence must also be singular.


        EXAMPLE 7


CORRECT: Anyone can reach his or her goal in life if he or she works hard for it.


If we forget this principle, basic errors such as the following may occur.


        EXAMPLE 8


 INCORRECT: Everybody has their own family.


Their is a plural pronoun; it refers to more than one person or object.  Therefore, it does not agree with the indefinite pronoun everybody which is always singular.  This is a basic error of pronoun usage which we must correct by substituting their for the singular pronoun his or her.


                        CORRECT: Everybody has his or her own family.


Note that even when the incorrect example may sound correct, it is only considered acceptable in informal speech.  When writing, we must be aware of pronoun agreement, particularly in the case of indefinite pronouns.




Decide which pronoun best completes the blank.  Bubble in the letter of your choice on your answer sheet.


7. Every human being has important events in _____________lifetime.

A.     his/her

B.     their

C.     you


8. Each of these students was reprimanded for not doing __________homework.

A.     their

B.     ourís

C.     his/her

9. It seems no member of the club wants to pay _________dues.

A.     hers

B.     his/her

C.     their

10. One of the women refused to comply with ___________bossí unreasonable demands.

A.     her

B.     his

C.     their

11. If someone comes in late, _______________must make up the time.

A.     they

B.     it

C.     he/she



C. Relative Pronouns


There are other types of pronouns we must remember to use appropriately in our writing such as the relative pronouns which, who and that.  Their uses are simple:


Who                             refers to one person or many people

Which                          refers to one or many objects and ideas

That                             can refer to one or many people, objects and ideas


        EXAMPLE 9


 I like to date women who are older than I am.

Bring me the chair which is next to the window.

This is the book that I talked to you about.

This is the man that I talked to you about.


Forgetting these three basic rules may produce errors like the following:


        EXAMPLE 10


                        INCORRECT: I have an older sister and a brother which are also twins.


Which is in this case incorrectly referring to people, an older sister and a brother.  We must, therefore, change which to who.


CORRECT: I have and older sister and a brother who are also twins.





Choose the pronoun that best completes each blank.   Bubble in the letter of your choice on your answer sheet.


12. We should use the teaching method ________ has had the best results.

A.     who

B.     which


13. I have a cousin _________is older than I am.

A.     which

B.     who


14. This is the test _________I was studying for.

A.     that

B.     who


15. Celia Cruz is one of the few Latin stars ___________has been happily married for many years.                                                       A. which

                                                                        B. who


D. Reflexive Pronouns


Another type of pronoun used to refer to those people or objects we are speaking about is called reflexive pronouns.

Singular                                                            Plural

myself                                                               ourselves

yourself                                                            yourselves

himself                                                              themselves




        EXAMPLE 11


 CORRECT: They should have confidence in themselves.

                                                When we think, we talk to ourselves.


First, we must remember that all the plural reflexive pronouns end in ďselvesĒ, not in ďself.Ē  If we donít, we may produce the following error.


        EXAMPLE 12


INCORRECT: Sometimes itís hard for us to understand ourself.


                        CORRECT:  Sometimes itís hard for us to understand ourselves.


Also, let us remember that the words theirself and hisself are incorrect forms and should never be used in writing.  We must instead use themselves and himself.



        EXAMPLE 13


CORRECT: They themselves donít even know what they are         doing wrong.

       He did the project all by himself.


Study the following summary chart:


Types of Pronouns











Subject Pronouns



I, you, he, she, it



we, you, they


Object Pronouns



me, you, his, her, it



us, you, them



Possessive Pronouns




my, your, his, her, its

mine, yours, his, hers, its




our, your, their

ours, yours, theirs


Indefinite Pronouns









one                        someone

anyone                  somebody

anybody                each

no one                   either

nobody                  neither













Reflexive Pronouns













Relative Pronouns



that------objects, ideas and people






Read the following student paragraph, paying close attention to the areas underlined, which may contain errors of pronoun usage.  Then bubble in the correct choice on your answer sheet.

My Career

My career goal is to become a nurse.  Since I was a little girl, I have always liked the idea of my helping people and making them happy.  Every patient likes to have a

                                                16. A. they

                                                      B. you

                                                      C. no error

nurse which understands them, so nursing is a career for someone with a caring

            17. A. who                   18. A. him/her

                  B. she                           B. you

                  C. no error                   C. no error

personality.  I think I have this kind of attitude.  I want to make mine patients feel

                                                                                                19. A. me

                                                                                                       B. my

                                                                                                       C. no error

 comfortable and also make them confident about theirs future recovery.

                                                                        20. A. you

                                                                              B. their

                                                                              C. no error

Even if I have to work very hard to reach this goal, nursing is the career I would like to dedicate my life to in the future.




In the space provided below, rewrite the following student paragraph, correcting all pronoun errors.  This paragraph contains no other errors except pronoun errors; therefore, do not make any other changes.



A great teacher


            On my first day of singing lessons, I was terrified.  I thought everyone had more control over their voice than I did.  For years, I wouldnít even consider auditions or concerts; I was so scared of it.  Actually, it took almost ten years for my to let go and begin to trust mine own abilities, and more than that, to begin to trust my peers.  It was my singing teacher which helped me out a lot. Me and her sat down one time and talked.  She pulled a mirror to my face and asked me what I saw there.  I was too scared to answer.  She said she saw a person with a bright future in their own hands if they would be willing to make the jump from fear to trust in herself and others.  That was when I started believing in people and in myself.  I started having hope for the future, and I am thankful to my teacher for that.




Caridad Castro

Ivonne Lamazares

Elena Perez

 Revised by Angelica Acosta 5-30-2002