Pronoun Pandemonium: Part 1

Heloise, Demon Hunter

Today, dear readers, we’re going to look at pronouns, which is the only part of speech I have yet to cover in detail. (See the bottom of this post for links to the other seven.) As with nouns and verbs, I will break pronouns into two chunks, so as not to overwhelm you.

Okay, so pronouns are sort of like shorthand for nouns. We use them to stand in for nouns that have already been expressed. For example:

  • Buffy scraped vampire goo off her face.

We also use pronouns in situations where the noun is understood. So, if you were reading a story in which Heloise, the Demon Hunter, is talking to her sidekick Abelard, you would know who is who in the following sentence:

  • She tossed him the crossbow and said, “Make sure you aim right between the demon’s eyes.”

So, as with nouns, pronouns have the following four properties: case, number, gender, and person. Pronouns and their antecedents (the word the pronoun in standing in place of) must match when it comes to number, gender, and person, as in the following examples:

  • Number: The demons and their minions. vs. The demon and its minion.
  • Gender: Buffy fixed her hair. vs. Damian put down his copy of The Omen.
  • Person: We should test our new bullets before the rest of the werewolves arrive. vs. I want my mommy!

When it comes to the property of case, there are three subcategories, and they are: nominative, genitive, and objective. In the nominative case, the pronoun is the subject of a finite verb (I stubbed my toe). In the genitive case, the pronoun indicates possession on the part of its antecedent (Heloise used her axe). And in the objective case, the pronoun acts as the object of a verb or a preposition (Abelard staked him right in the heart).

Finally, there is one area of case that often causes confusion and that is whether to use you and I or you and me. The former is nominative, while the latter is typically objective (you and me is a compound object). Consider the following examples:

  • 1: Binding a demon with the spell would be easy for you and I.
  • 2: Binding a demon with the spell would be easy for you and me.

People often go with the first example, probably because of some well-intentioned indoctrination that took place in childhood. But the second example is actually correct because, in this sentence, you and me is the object, not the subject. An easy trick to deal with sentences like this is to try it with only the first person pronoun. Check it out:

  • 1: Binding a demon with the spell would be easy for I.
  • 2: Binding a demon with the spell would be easy for me.

The second example makes more sense when you look at it that way. (I hope you are all nodding in agreement…)

Okay, so that’s it for Pronouns: Part 1. Come on back next week to learn all about the six classes of pronouns. In the meantime, check out my posts on the Eight Parts of Speech:

Nouns: Part 1
Nouns: Part 2
Verbs: Part 1
Verbs: Part 2


Image credit: © Jesse-lee Lang /

3 thoughts on “Pronoun Pandemonium: Part 1

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