With this blog post, I hope to help connect one of the puzzle pieces of grammar for you.
Sometimes grammar concepts seem simple but can really be complex, like how two puzzle pieces can seem like they fit but don’t. I am going to talk about a common aspect of grammar that I still have trouble with: getting the two pieces to fit.
That’s right. I still mistake how to use pronouns. Because of this, I decided to write a post to help everyone else too who struggles with this aspect of grammar.
First thing to mention is that there is a difference between a pronoun and a proper noun.
I have to remind myself of this all the time so bear with me.
A pronoun is used to take the the place of a regular noun already mentioned before so you don’t have to constantly repeat it.
A proper noun however is used when you want to be more specific. .
Instead of generically saying “The teacher wrote this…” you would actually give the teachers name to make use of the proper noun.
With pronouns you can simply change “the teacher” to he or she after “the teacher” or the name of the teacher has been used more than once.
The basic idea with pronouns is to replace a noun and make a sentence shorter and easier to say. It saves you from constantly having to say that person’s name.
QUICK! Did you notice that I used a pronoun in that last sentence?
That’s correct! The pronoun I used was the word: “It.” This word replaced the word: pronoun.
I could do this because you knew I was referring to pronouns since I had already addressed the topic earlier.
So current pronouns we have discussed are: He, She, and It.
“He” and “She” replaced the word or proper name of a person while “It” replaced a thing.
“You” is also a pronoun but only when referring to someone else in place of saying their name.
“I love you” vs. “I love *insert name of someone you love here*”
Some other pronouns we use are: His, Hers, Ours, Yours, Theirs, and Mine.
These are used to show possession.
Those clothes are mine.
“This love is ours.” (cue Taylor Swift song)
That candy was hers.
The plural pronouns include: They, We, Us, Ourselves, You, Yourselves, Them, Themselves, Who, Which and That.
Singular pronouns are: I, Me, Myself, You, Yourself, He, She, It, Himself, Herself, Itself, Who, Which, and That.
Now there are specific pronouns that are used to ask questions when you don’t know the type of the noun. Those pronouns are: Who, What and Which.
Who brought the dirty dog inside?
What did you want?
Which one of them hit you?
Now that we understand certain rules about pronouns in general, I would like to touch on specific rules regarding pronouns that will help you retain your clarity when writing.
The first rule is that pronouns have to agree in number.
What I mean is that if the original noun was plural then you must substitute it with a plural pronoun. You use the same idea with singular nouns.
Purdue Owl gives a great example: “If a student parks a car on campus, he or she has to buy a parking sticker.”
Versus the incorrect way of writing the sentence: “If a student parks a car on campus, they have to buy a parking sticker.”
If you don’t understand why it is wrong look again. If you notice in the sentence the word student is singular and as such you can’t pair it with the plural pronoun they.
Please note that “he or she” is being used because we do not know the gender of the student. It might seem wordy but that is how it is properly used.
The second rule is that pronouns have to agree in person. Which means don’t go from first person pronouns to suddenly second person pronouns.
Purdue Owl’s example for this shows that:
“When a person comes to class, he or she should have his or her homework ready.”
This is the correct way versus the incorrect way written as:
“When a person comes to class, you should have your homework ready.”
Why is the first sentence correct over the other? Well look again.
With the noun “person” we know it is a third person noun and as such shouldn’t be paired up with a second person pronoun.
The third and final rule goes back to my title of this post: referring clearly to a specific noun.
This is so important because it’s what makes or breaks how someone reads your sentences.
This may seem simple but it is so hard to do sometimes.
The trick is to not assume the reader will know automatically who or what you, as the writer, are referring to.
That last sentence I wrote is correct because you know I am referring to the reader who is reading whatever you wrote and you as the writer. However, I can re-write my previous sentence to:
“The trick is to not assume they will know who or what you are referring to.”
This is wrong because we have no idea who they are.
Another example is:
“When my husband brought home a cat, we had to separate our daughter and the cat until she was comfortable.”
Who is “she” referring to? The cat or the child?
Since this is too vague, you want to rewrite it.
“When my husband brought home a cat, we had to separate our daughter and the cat until the cat was comfortable.”
Well that’s all the help I can give you!
I would like to take you all down memory lane by asking you to watch this video if you want more reminders of everything I said above works.
To quote Schoolhouse Rock: “A pronoun was made to take the place of a noun because saying all those nouns over and over can really wear you down.”
*All photos were taken from Google Images under the labeled for reuse tool.*