Level: beginner

We have both subject pronouns and object pronouns:

Subject Object
I me
you you
he him
she her
it it
we us
you you
they them

We use subject pronouns as the subject of a verb:

I like your dress.
You are late.
He is my friend.
It is raining.
She is on holiday.
We live in England.
They come
from London.

Be careful!

English clauses always have a subject.

His father has just retired. > He was a teacher. (NOT Was a teacher.)
I'm waiting for my wife.She is late. (NOT Is late.)

The imperative, which is used for orders, invitations and requests, is an exception:

Stop!
Go away.
Please come to dinner tomorrow.
Play it again, please.

If there is no other subject, we use it or there. We call this a dummy subject.

We use object pronouns as the object of a verb:

Can you help me, please?
I can see you.
She doesn't like him.
I saw her in town today.
We saw them in town yesterday, but they didn't see us.

and after prepositions:

She is waiting for me.
I'll get it for you.
Give it to him.
Why are you looking at her?
Don't take it from us.
I'll speak to them.

Subject and object pronouns 1

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Subject and object pronouns 2

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he, she and they

We use he/him to refer to men, and she/her to refer to women. When we are not sure if we are talking about a man or a woman, we use they/them:

This is Jack. He's my brother. I don't think you have met him.
This is Angela. She's my sister. Have you met her before?
You could go to a doctor. They might help you.
Talk to a friend. Ask them to help you.

he, she and they 1

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he, she and they 2

GapFillTyping_MTU4MTY

you and they

We use you to talk about people in general, including the speaker and the hearer:

You can buy this book everywhere. = This book is on sale everywhere.
You can't park here. = Parking is not allowed here.

We use they/them to talk about institutions and organisations:

They serve good food here. (they = the restaurant)
Ask them for a cheaper ticket. (them = the airline)

especially the government and the authorities:

They don't let you smoke in here. 
They are going to increase taxes.
They are building a new motorway. 
They say it’s going to rain tomorrow.

you and they 1

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you and they 2

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it

We use it to talk about ourselves:

  • on the telephone:

Hello. It's George.

  • when other people cannot see us:

It's me. It's Mary. (Mary is knocking on the door.)

We also use it to talk about other people:

  • when we point people out for the first time:

Look. It's Paul McCartney.
Who's that? I think it's John's brother.

  • when we cannot see someone and we ask them for their name:

Hello. Who is it? (someone answering the phone)
Who is it? (someone about to answer the door)

it

MultipleChoice_MTkxMTI

 

Comments

Hello akm,

When we want to speak in general terms and not specify the gender of the person we are talking about, we use 'they' with a plural verb. It is possible to write 'he or she' ('she or he') but this is rather clumsy, especially if we need to repeat it.

In your first sentence, therefore, I would use '...when they are drunk'. The second sentence is perfectly fine. It's quite normal to switch from 'a person' to 'they' in this way.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter,

Thanks for your guidance.
I would like to ask few more questions on above,
1. Can I use the same kind of structure (a person + they are) in IELTS essay?
2. In the second sentence, I have one more doubt - should I use "in their mind" / "in their minds"? Of course, the 2nd clause is now plural but if I write "in their mind" considering "a person" as the main subject I am referring to, then will it be considered a grammar mistake?
3. Will it be more appropriate to use "people" instead of "a person" in the second sentence to avoid handling gender ambiguity?
I also want to add that I really appreciate the lessons explained above which are very helpful because they are quite clear and thus, easy to understand.

Hi akm,

1. It is perfectly fine to use 'they' for a single person in this way in any context, including academic essays.

 

2. If 'they' refers to a single person then the singular 'mind' is correct. This is true of any such example:

They went into the room and raised their hand. (not 'hands')

 

3. In the shopping example you are speaking generically. You can use the generic 'a person' followed by 'they' or you can use the plural form 'people' followed by 'they'. It makes no difference.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello , this is to track the new comments

Hi dipakrgandhi,

The comment tracking feature hasn't been working very well. If you'd like to leave comments on different pages to help you find things, that's fine, but please make them substantive comments, that is, comments in which you ask a question or make some comment relevant to the page. Thanks in advance for your understanding.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Ok! Thank you!

Hello Sir
Please help me in this. How do I write a proper name using cursive writing? The first
letter is normally capital. For e.g. 'Andrew' my question is how do I write 'A' in Andrew if I
am using cursive hand writing. Is it simple 'a' bigger than normal?
Please let me know?
Thank you.
Regards
Lal

Hi Lal,

I'm afraid it's difficult for me to give you a definitive answer to this problem because there are different versions of the cursive alphabet. In any case, I'd recommend you do an internet search for 'cursive alphabet' and then for you to look at the pictures, which will show you the most common ways letters are written in the cursive alphabet.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi! I love this site but since yesterday I' having problems with the exercises because they don't load in my cellphone. Has anything changed in the plataform? Thanks a lot. The Learn English Team is amazing!

Hi LilianaVa,

I'm afraid we had a few technical problems with the exercises but everything should be working correctly now.

It's great to hear you like the site!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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