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

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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 Terry
As you suggest, to be sure that both people you are speaking to understand that you are referring to both of them, you should say 'both of you', 'the two of you', 'you guys', or something similar. In some varieties of English, people commonly say 'y'all' or 'youse' or some other form when they want to make it clear they are speaking to more than one person, though please note that since these forms are usually considered non-standard, they are not always appropriate.
Several hundred years ago, English had different second person pronouns ('thou' in the singular' and 'ye' for the plural), but for complex reasons only 'you' has remained. You can read a bit more about this is in the Wikipedia article on English personal pronouns (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_personal_pronouns#Archaic_and_non-...) if you'd like to learn more.
All the best
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Kirk, thank you so much for the swift reply, I truly appreciate it. Very educational response. Thanks man.

cool!

Hi,

Is it acceptable to use their instead of his or her, and they instead of he or she in sentences like the following?

Every CEO is responsible for the success or failure of their (his or her) company.
Every CEO is responsible for the success or failure of the company they (he or she) work for.

Hello sam61,
Yes, it is fine to use 'they' (them, their etc) to mean 'he or she'. It is a very well-established form which can be found in Shakespeare and even earlier writers. 'They' is followed by a plural verb, even though it refers to one person.
~
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

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