English Grammar Part 3: Personal Pronouns

Level: Basic
Time taken to Complete: 200 minutes


English is a complicated language.  It’s rather annoyingly difficult in many respects, and somewhat simplified in others.  Many people have difficulty with English spelling.  The grammar has it’s ups and downs, but here is some help.  This series is for those who would like to brush up on or learn about grammar and grammar terminology.

Pronouns are defined by most grammarians (and most laymen) as a word that takes the place of a noun.  We’ll hold close to that for our purposes here.  There are several types of pronouns used in several different ways.

The kind which we will talk about now is what we call Personal pronouns.  Here the pronouns actually change depending on if it is the subject, object, or possessive.  There are three persons and 2 numbers in English.  The numbers are singular and plural.  The persons all depends on the perspective of how it’s being used.  The chart for the subject pronouns is as follows:

 Singular Plural
1st Person  I we
2nd Person  you  you
3rd Person  he. she, it  they

The object pronouns are as follows:

Sing. Plural
1st  me  us
2nd  you you
3rd  him, her, it them

If a person wants to talk about himself or something he does, he will use “I or me” and “we or us” if he is talking about himself and another person.  The tricky thing about we and us is it can either be inclusive or exclusive.  If I am talking to my friend, I could say, “We could go to the mall.”  and that would mean it is he and I going so it’s inclusive.  But if I’m talking to my teacher about my friend and me going to the mall later, I could still say “We could be going to the mall later,” but that would be excuslive since it doesn’t involve the teacher whom I’m talking to.

“You” is the same across the board.  Originally it came from the French word “vous” (compare you /ju/ with vous /vu/).  We used to have an informal pronouns similar to German Du, French, Spanish, and Italian Tu.  That was the word Thou, with the object form Thee.  Some dialects have variations to show the plural verse the singular.  In American dialects in the south one can often hear “ya’ll.”  Around my own area, one might here “yous,” /juz/ which shows the overuse of the noun plural ending -s.

“He, she, it, and they” most of the other pronouns are considered third person.  This is the only one which has an effect on the verb, although it’s only in the singular case.  This is the only pronoun which varies on gender or lack there of.  “He” is masculine and should really refer to male beings.  “She” is feminine and usually only refers to female beings, though sometimes it’s used for ships since they usually have female names.  “It” is used for pretty much everything else.  The word “it” is also used for general things and other idiomatic expressions.  Like weather “it’s raining,” or phrases like “it seems…”  Use “it” isn’t used in the plural and the plural of the noun is prefered.

Then we have the Anaphors or what we might call Reflexive Pronouns.  In this we can see the difference between plural and singular in the 2nd person.

Singular Plural
1st Person myself ourselves
2nd Person yourself yourselves
3rd Person himself, herself, itself themselves

These reflexive pronouns refer back to the subject of the sentence.  I wouldn’t say something like, “I hit me,” I would say, “I hit myself.”  We can see the use of the plural of self used in the plural versions of the anaphors.

We can see now how similar they are, and in some cases even the same.  Then we have two form of possessive which were mentioned in the article about Adjectives and Articles.  They are:

 Adjectival Predicate
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st  my our mine  ours
2nd  your  your yours  yours
3rd  his, her, its  their his, hers, its theirs

As we can see, the 2nd person seems to be almost the same across the board, whereas the others change in different ways.  Historically we can also see other connections, even between article a (and an) and my (and mine)(think of the song the Battle Hymn of the Republic…”mine eyes have seen the glory…”)