Using Pronouns in English: Subject Pronouns

Need some help using pronouns in English? Sure thing! This article will explore the use of pronouns as the focus (also known as the subject) of a sentence.

WHAT IS A PRONOUN?

Pronouns are words that can be substituted for a noun or a noun phrase. Basically, the pronoun can do anything the noun can do. It can act as a subject, direct object, indirect object, etc.

Here is a list of the pronouns that will be looked at in this article.

  • I
  • he
  • she
  • it
  • they
  • we
  • you

USING PRONOUNS IN ENGLISH

The ‘I’ Pronoun

The ‘I’ pronoun is used when someone is talking about themselves.

Example 1

  • ‘Ella went to school today.’

If I was speaking or writing about my day, I would normally use the ‘I’ pronoun instead of my name.

  • ‘I went to school today.’

Example 2

  • ‘Emily has a new car.’
Using Pronouns in English - Simply Better English
Using Pronouns in English – Simply Better English

Again, instead of the speaker or writer using their own name, they would use the ‘I‘ pronoun.

  • ‘I have a new car.’

Note: now the word combination ‘I have’ must be used instead of ‘Emily has’.

The ‘You’ Pronoun

The ‘you’ pronoun is normally used when you are communicating directly with someone.

Example 3

  • ‘Susan needs to go to the supermarket.’

In this sentence, the noun ‘Susan’ can be replaced by the ‘you‘ pronoun.

  • ‘You need to go to the supermarket.’

The ‘He’ Pronoun

The ‘he’ pronoun is used for a male person or sometimes a male animal.

Example 3

  • ‘Jonus went to the concert.’

This sentence can be edited to include the ‘he‘ pronoun.

  • ‘He went to the concert.’

Example 4

  • ‘Mark enjoyed the event.’

The noun ‘Mark’ could be replaced with the ‘he’ pronoun.

  • ‘He enjoyed the event.’

Example 5

  • ‘Actually, Ethan likes rugby.’
Using Pronouns in English - Simply Better English
Using Pronouns in English – Simply Better English

Although this sentence begins with an adverb, Ethan is still the subject of the sentence. This means the ‘he’ pronoun can still be used.

  • ‘Actually, he likes rugby.’
Quiz Sign - Simply Better English
Quiz Sign – Simply Better English
Activity 1

Read the sentences and replace the male noun with a pronoun.

  • Marcus liked the photograph.
  • After a while, Jens went to work.
  • Two days later, Ray finished the essay.

The ‘She’ Pronoun

The ‘she’ pronoun is used for a female person or a female animal.

Example 6

  • ‘At noon, Julie went to the gym.’

Again, the noun can be replaced by a pronoun.

  • ‘At noon, she went to the gym.’

Example 7

  • ‘The woman owned two horses.’

For this sentence, we can replace the determiner ‘the’ and the noun ‘woman’ with a pronoun.

  • ‘She owned two horses.’

PRONOUN TIP

Sometimes pronouns are used to avoid using the same noun twice.

Example 8

  • ‘Emma went to the circus and Emma liked it.’

To avoid repeating the noun ‘Emma’, we could use a pronoun.

  • ‘Emma went to the circus and she liked it.’

In cases like this, the pronoun is usually placed second in the sentence. We would not normally say or write: ‘She went to the circus and Emma liked it.’ If we use a pronoun in this way, it sounds as if two different people are being discussed. Remember: when a pronoun and a noun are used in the same sentence the noun should be used first.

We could, however, write a paragraph like the example below.

Example 9

Emma went to the park and she saw some ducks. She saw an ice cream van and she decided it was a good time for an ice cream. Emma bought a chocolate ice cream.

Quiz Sign - Simply Better English
Quiz Sign – Simply Better English
Activity 2

Rewrite the paragraph and replace two of the female nouns with a pronoun.

  • Sophia played football and Sophia had to play in the next game.  Sophia played in a defensive position.  Sophia played for a good team.

The ‘It’ Pronoun

The ‘it’ pronoun is used for nouns that are not human.

Example 10

  • ‘The plant has green leaves.’
Using Pronouns in English - Simply Better English
Using Pronouns in English – Simply Better English

Like in the previous examples, we can replace the determiner ‘the’ and the noun ‘plant’ with a pronoun.

  • ‘It has green leaves.’

EXCEPTIONS

The pronouns ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘it’ can be used for animals too.

  • ‘The dog has huge paws.’
  • ‘He has huge paws.’
  • ‘She has huge paws.’
  • ‘It has huge paws.’

Although all of the sentences above are correct, when talking or writing about an animal the pronoun ‘it’ is normally used. However, the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’ tend to be used more when speaking or writing about an animal which is a pet.

The ‘They’ Pronoun

The ‘they’ pronoun is used when more than one person is being discussed.

Example 11

  • ‘The children wanted to play on the swings.’

This sentence is about more than one person, so we can use the ‘they’ pronoun.

  • ‘They wanted to play on the swings.’

Example 12

  • ‘Charlotte and Lucas were watching the television.’

When discussing two or more people, we can use the ‘they’ pronoun.

  • ‘They were watching the television.’

The ‘We’ Pronoun

The ‘we’ pronoun is also used when discussing more than one person but there is one exception.

Example 13

  • ‘Jessica, Justin and I went to the café together.’

Like the ‘they’ pronoun, the ‘we’ pronoun is used when two or more people are being discussed. The difference is that the speaker or writer is included in the group that is being discussed.

  • ‘We went to the café together.’

 

Quiz Sign - Simply Better English
Quiz Sign – Simply Better English
Activity 3

Try and replace the word in bold with the correct pronoun.

  • The bride has long hair.
  • Jonny painted my bedroom. (Jonny is talking about himself.)
  • Eva went jogging.
  • Henry, Jack and I work together.
  • After a while, the dog wanted to go for a walk.
  • Mason played hockey every Tuesday.
  • Holly and Alex relaxed at home.

RECAP

This article has looked at using pronouns in English. Always keep in mind that, unlike in some other languages, the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’ are only normally used when speaking or writing about people, and sometimes animals. For more about nouns, see the article Using Nouns in English.

Here are the answers to the activities in this article.  Feel free to leave your answers in the comments section.

Activity 1
  • He liked the photograph.
  • After a while, he went to work.
  • Two days later, he finished the essay.
Activity 2

There are a few possible answers to this question. Here is one of them.

Sophia played football and she had to play in the next game. She played in a defensive position. Sophia played for a good team.

Activity 3
  • She has long hair.
  • I painted my bedroom. (Jonny is talking about himself.)
  • She went jogging.
  • We work together.
  • After a while, he/she wanted to go for a walk. (This sentence writes about a pet so the pronoun ‘it’ could be used but the pronouns ‘he’ or ‘she’ are more likely to be used.)
  • He played hockey every Tuesday.
  • They relaxed at home.

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