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Personal Pronouns - Rules and exercises for intermediate level

Thursday, 05 April 2018
The doctor told her to sit down The doctor told her to sit down Designed by Freepik

An overview of the rules of personal pronouns with exercises, examining subject, object and dummy subject pronouns. This online English grammar lesson is designed for intermediate level students.

Personal pronouns: form

 Personal pronouns are short words that we can use instead of a person's name. They simplify communication and help us avoid repeating words unnecessarily.

1st singular I Me
2nd You You
3rd (male) He Him
3rd (female) She Her
3rd neutral It It
1st plural We Us
3rd plural They Them

Personal pronouns: use

Imagine someone saying, "John lives in London. John's parents often visit John at the weekends. John's parents and John go to the cinema together." It sounds strange and unnatural. Personal pronouns give us much clearer, simpler communication: "John lives in London. His parents often visit him at the weekend. They go to the cinema together."

Subject personal pronouns go at the start of a sentence or clause, usually before a verb. Look at these examples:

 I watched TV.

She likes football.

We don't drink champagne.

Have they been running?

Object personal pronouns can be used as the object of a verb, or after a preposition. Object personal pronouns do not start sentences. For example:

Can Mary call him?

Dan laughed at me.

Sue and John are looking for you.

The doctor told her to sit down.

Personal pronouns: dummy subject

For a sentence to be correct in English, it must have a subject. There is one exception - imperative sentences - but most communication needs a subject. If there is no other subject, we can use "it" or "there". We call this a dummy subject. We use usually "it" with adjectives, and "there" in the form of "there is" or "there are". Look at these examples:

It is important to remember your password.

It was hot yesterday.

There are three children playing outside.

There was a bottle on the table.

Personal pronouns: one and ones

"One" and "ones" are also pronouns. We can use them to avoid repetition. "One" is singular, and "ones" is plural. For example:

Which dress do you want to buy, the red one (=dress) or the pink one (=dress)?

Have you seen my books? I can't find the ones (=books) I bought yesterday.

Look at those two men. Paul is the fat one (=man) and Gary is the slim one (=man).

We can also use "one" in questions, with "which". For example:

We have six jackets for sale. Which one (=jacket) do you want to buy?

Personal pronouns: you and they

When we are speaking about people in general, we can use "you". This is not a reference to the person we're speaking to, but rather all (or most) people. For example:

You can't smoke in this building. (= Nobody is allowed to smoke in this building.)

You'll need to bring an umbrella if you travel to Ireland. (= It is a good idea for everybody to bring an umbrella when travelling to Ireland.)

We can also use "they" to talk about people in general, especially the government or other people in a position of authority. For example:

They say that Shakespeare once ate dinner here. (= Many people believe that Shakespeare once ate dinner here.)

They are going to raise the price of bus tickets. (= The authorities are going to raise the price of bus tickets.)

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Last modified on Friday, 13 April 2018 14:03