Personal pronouns

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

GapFillTyping_MTU4MDg=

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

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTU4MDk=

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

GapFillTyping_MTU4MTc=

you and they 2

GapFillTyping_MTU4MTk=

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

 

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Submitted by Nagie23 on Thu, 09/09/2021 - 13:30

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Hello, I would like to ask which of the following is correct 1. I would like to suggest my writing a feature article about the movie OR 2. I would like to suggest writing a feature article about the 'The title' movie. Thank you in advance

Hi Nagie23,

Both of them are grammatically correct, but the second one doesn't state who should write the article. It could be the speaker or the listener. We'd need to use the context of the conversation to know which person is intended.

For the first sentence, it might be more common to say it like this: I would like to suggest that I write ... (suggest + that + subject + verb).

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Omyhong on Thu, 01/07/2021 - 01:38

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Hello everyone, It is stated there that "We also use it to talk about other people". May I know if we can use it to talk more than one person at one time as the examples given refer to one person only. e.g. It was his parents. It was Luke and his sister, Anna. Thank you for your help.

Hello Omyhong,

Plural is absolutely fine here. Both of your examples are correct.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hara21 on Fri, 19/02/2021 - 18:47

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Hello everyone! I have a question about the auxilliary verb be and the Subject pronouns. The grammar rule says that after the verbs we use the object pronouns but does this rule apply also for the verb to be? "Are they tired?" here we used the Subject pronoun and not them the object pronoun even if it is followed after the verb. Thank u in advance

Hello Hara21,

The rule is not that we use object pronouns after verbs, but that we use object pronouns when the pronoun is the object of the verb.

 

In the sentence 'Are they tired?' the subject is still 'they'. You can see this as the verb changes to agree with the pronoun (Am I tired? / Is she tired?), and verbs only agree with their subjects, not their objects.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank u Peter so it is wrong to say to a Junior class student that in a sentence object pronouns follow the verb and verbs follow Subject pronouns, right? Thank u so much!!

Hello Hara21,

I think it would be misleading, yes. In affirmative sentences the normal order is subject > verb > object, so obviously the subject pronoun tends to come before the verb, but there are many ways to use inversion, for example, which reverses this:

Never have I seen such a sight!

Hardly had he arrived when she left.

Little did I know that she already had the document.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by He999 on Tue, 12/01/2021 - 17:48

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Hello, I have a question: Is "How do you get to Oxford from London?" a correct sentence?

Submitted by Jonathan R on Wed, 13/01/2021 - 03:20

In reply to by He999

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Hi He999,

Yes :) It is correct.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Via on Fri, 06/11/2020 - 22:32

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Hello team, Which sentence is correct? e.g, She made me feels angry. or e.g She made me feel angry.. Should I put 's' to the verbs after subject pronouns even are 'me' and 'your'? Thanks a lot.

Hello Via,

The second version is correct. After 'make somebody' we use the base form of the verb:

She made me go home.

They made us wait.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Amine Mohamadou on Sun, 03/05/2020 - 17:02

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Hello! can we get English certificate (Diploma) when we Complete our British English course?

Hello Amine Mohamadou

For most of our courses on FutureLearn, it is possible to get a certificate if you pay an upgrade fee. I believe there may be some kind of certificate for completing myClass Online courses, but I will have to check on that -- I'll respond to this message once I have an answer for you.

LearnEnglish Select, the other course on our site, does not issue a certificate as far as I know, and there is no certificate for work on pages such as this one -- as they are not really part of a course and are entirely self-access.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ravinder on Sat, 25/04/2020 - 14:36

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It is very nice exercise, we can practices our study.

Submitted by Epardolez on Wed, 22/04/2020 - 22:19

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Thanks for sharing!!

Submitted by Momocompanyman on Sun, 29/12/2019 - 15:34

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Hello Mr Kirk, In the example below. Can I say? : She doesn't tell me instead of She didn't tell me. A: What time is Bianca's flight arriving? B: I don't know. She didn't tell me .

Hello Momocompanyman

If Bianca was supposed to tell you before now, then 'She didn't tell me' is the best form here. If you mean that you have texted her just now and she is not responding, then you could say 'She's not telling me', but not 'She doesn't tell me'.

You might want to look at our Talking about the present page to see more about the difference present tenses.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Thu, 14/11/2019 - 07:33

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Hello, I would like to ask if the following is correct 1.People say that it is a beautiful flat, but to me is just Home sweet home or 2..but for me is just home sweet home Thank you in advance

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 17/11/2019 - 09:07

In reply to by anie1

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Hello angi

I'd say 'for me'. You should also say 'it is just'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by fire on Sun, 27/10/2019 - 21:04

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A lot of famous authors chose to be lazy with their syntax and use of lexis. In the rules of the language, 'they' is seen as a plural pronoun. I get that language varies overtime and it is possible that it could become a singular pronoun. However, in its current state, 'they' is, on a technical level, a plural. At the time of Shakespeare (the early modern English period) I don't believe they had a standard spelling system, or at least one was just emerging, and words were often used as they fit. It is my understanding that: 'it' is a 3rd person singular pronoun. Like he, she, him and her. Is there any reason as to why it cannot be used to refer to a person. Is it a connotations thing? Because the denotation doesn't specify that it can't be used to refer to somebody of whose gender is unknown. Thanks for replying. This is a fascinating subject.

Hello again fire,

There is nothing lazy about the use of singular they, and nor are examples from history the result of the language being in some way insufficiently standardised, as later examples from Dickens and Austen (amongst many others) demonstrate.

Singular they is a long-established form which is not controversial. I'm not sure why you think it is problematic, or what evidence you have for that. You seem to be tilting at windmills here.

In standard use 'it' is not used to refer to people other than newborn babies, and if a person does use 'it' in this way then it is immediately understood to be insulting - a way to dehumanise a person by referring to them as a thing or a non-human animal. It's something that is occasionally used in film or literature as a way to express contempt.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by fire on Sun, 27/10/2019 - 00:59

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Hello learners. It is my understanding that: 'they' is a 3rd person plural pronoun and should not be, in a technical setting, used to refer to a singular person. I suppose this is alright if you are speaking informally but when it comes to the technicalities, it is incorrect. Also, 'it' can be used to refer to humans.

Hello fire,

The use of singular they as an alternative to 'he or she' has a very long history, dating back to the Middle English period of Geoffrey Chaucer. Examples can be found in many of the greatest writers in English, including Shakespeare, Dickens and Austen, to name but three. In other words, it is a very well established element of the English language.

While a minority of style guides prefer to avoid singular they, the vast majority of authorities today accept its use in all forms of writing, including formal and technical writing. It is less clumsy than 'he or she' and is both a clear and efficient way to express the concept.

You can read an interesting history of the use of singular they on this page:

https://public.oed.com/blog/a-brief-history-of-singular-they/#

 

We do not generally use 'it' to refer to humans in standard English, whether informal, formal or technical. It's possible to use 'it' to refer to humanity, of course, or to parts of the body (or even the whole body), but not to a person.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter, Thanks for these useful remarks on the use of singular 'they'. I'm researching the recent treatment of singular 'they' and generic 'he' in English grammars and dictionaries. Can I ask you a couple of questions? First, do you cover the use of 'they' in the context of non-binary gender? Secondly, do you have anything on the use of generic 'he', i.e., where the intention is to be gender-neutral? And a third question also: what resources do you use for your grammar - e.g. other published grammars, or perhaps dictionaries? I'd be very grateful for the information. Best wishes, Charlotte.

Hello Charlotte

This grammar was written by Dave Willis, the author of The Lexical Syllabus. As it was written some time ago, it doesn't include anything on 'they' as a pronoun for people of a non-binary gender. I'm afraid we don't have anything that specifically covers the use of 'he' as a gender-neutral pronoun, but the Wikipedia entry for Third-person pronoun might be a good place to start finding links to resources.

As for your third question, I'm afraid I don't know what Willis used when writing this grammar, but I can say that we occasionally refer our users to the Cambridge Dictionary grammar as well as the Wikipedia and the English Language and Use StackExchange (which could also be a useful resource for your research).

Best wishes

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by thalia aydek on Fri, 11/10/2019 - 19:59

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Hi, in the sentence the dog broke one of its legs. Why is its here a pronoun not a possessive adj although it is followed by a noun here. Very confusing!

Hello thalia aydek,

In my opinion its is a possessive adjective in your sentence. I'm not sure why you think it is a pronoun.

The preposition of is followed by an object, but the object can be a phrase as well as a word, and here the object is the noun phrase its legs.

You can see that it is a possessive adjective if you transform the sentence into the first person: I broke one of my legs.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vitub on Fri, 27/09/2019 - 14:40

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Hello, I've found this sentence "If I die, who's going to feed me dog?" I doubt about it <...me dog=""> is wrong as I think it should be looked like that <...my dog=""> Please answer the question, what do you think about the sentence? Thank you

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 29/09/2019 - 11:03

In reply to by Vitub

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Hello Vitub

You are right: in standard British English, 'my' is correct and 'me' is not. In more than one non-standard form of British English, however, 'me' is often used instead of 'my'. It's difficult for me to say if that's the reason 'me' was used here without knowing where it came from and the context it was used in, but I wonder if that might be why.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Md. Kaysar on Wed, 18/09/2019 - 12:45

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If I want to start English from the beginning, What should I do?Do you have any suggestion regarding that?

Hello Md. Kaysar

I would suggest trying our Skills section first. You could choose one of the skills you want to focus on and then start using the pages at the B2 level. If you find them too difficult, move to B1 level; if you find them too easy, move to C1 level.

On every page, there are exercises that test how well you understood the content, and others that focus more on grammar or vocabulary. Be sure to do those and also to take notes on phrases that you would like to learn. It's good to learn individual words, but at your level, phrases are more important.

If you find grammar that you don't understand well or that you want to practise more, then make a note of what the grammar is -- or, if you don't know what it's called, please just ask us in the comments on the page you are working on -- and we can help you find an explanation of it here in the Grammar reference.

Good luck!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by abhijeet on Wed, 21/08/2019 - 11:20

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sir, how to solve fill in the blanks in compitative exam

Hello abhijeet,

Are you asking generally about exams or do you have a problem with one of the tasks on this page? Please let us know and we'll be happy to help.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmadreza123 on Thu, 27/06/2019 - 21:54

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Hello I did not understand what is the difference between " possessive pronoun " abd "possessive adjactive". Could you please help me with these two problem?

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 28/06/2019 - 13:26

In reply to by Ahmadreza123

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Hello Ahmadreza123

A pronoun takes the place of a noun and an adjective tells us more about a noun. Look at these sentences: 'His shirt is blue. Mine is red.' In the first sentence, the noun 'shirt' is modified by the adjective 'his', which tells us which shirt is being talked about. In the second sentence, 'mine' is a pronoun -- it is the subject of the verb 'is'.

Does that make sense?

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmadreza123 on Thu, 27/06/2019 - 21:42

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Hello , how is the big city treating you? It really drives me up the wall when i think about learning grammar , but do you think is it good to have a notebook and write grammar rules on it ?

Hello Ahmadreza123

That really depends on the kind of learner you are. Some people find it quite useful and others do not, so I would encourage you to experiment with this to see what works best for you.

In general, I think almost everyone can benefit from writing down words, phrases and even sentences that they want to learn, especially if you then revise them from time to time and practise pronouncing them until they are easy to say.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jakirislam on Thu, 23/05/2019 - 05:05

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Sir, is it true that we should maintain the sequence of personal pronouns as follows: Generally we use: You, she and I will go for a walk. For unpleasant statements: I, he and you will be punished. (Ref: Treasury of English Grammar) Pls let me know the correct use of pronouns
Hello jakirislam As far as I know, there is no hard rule about this, though the general use you describe sounds like good advice to me. Putting 'me' or 'I' last in a list is a good practice -- it's more polite to let others go first. I'd never heard that about unpleasant statements. Again, it sounds like good advice, but I wouldn't call it a rule. All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sam61 on Fri, 12/04/2019 - 12:45

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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.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 13/04/2019 - 07:45

In reply to by sam61

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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

Submitted by Terry on Wed, 10/04/2019 - 03:28

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Greetings, I have a question regarding the 2nd person plural, "you". For example: If you are talking to two people and you want them to do something. You need to use more that just "you", you either need to use body language and point/move hand left and right to include both of them or you need to verbally tell them, "both of you have to to this" or "you two have to do this". What I am trying to say is that the 2nd person plural does not stand on it's own like the rest of the personal pronouns. Why is this? Thank you so much for your time and efforts.
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-standard) if you'd like to learn more. All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ali salh on Fri, 15/02/2019 - 17:59

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Thanks for the best team . 1000 thank you Kirk Ali Salh

Submitted by Lal on Mon, 28/01/2019 - 08:54

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Hello Sir I went through your personal pronoun website. I would like to know about this. e.g. I want to talk to someone in charge and tell ---------- how I felt. The answer is 'them' but 'someone' is singular. Is it because of the gender ? him or her. Please let me know. Thank you. Regards Lal

Hi Lal

As is explained on this page, 'they' and 'them' are often used to speak about a single person when the gender of that person is not clear. Here the idea is that we don't know if the person in charge is a man or woman and so we say 'them'.

If you said 'someone', it would mean you were talking to a different person, i.e. not the person in charge.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by dipakrgandhi on Sun, 20/01/2019 - 07:19

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This is the name for his group one businessman uses : ' Proper Name ' group of institution's. I have used ' Proper Name' instead of its name. I think using apostrophe is not correct and it should be plural- without apostrophe. What would be your version for this ? Regards