The personal pronouns are I, you, he, she, and it, plus their various forms indicating the following properties.
|1st PERSON||2nd PERSON||3rd PERSON|
|Poss.||my, mine||your, yours||his||her, hers||its|
|Poss.||our, ours||your, yours||their, theirs|
The older second person forms—thou or thee, thy or thine, and ye—which were in common use centuries ago, are “solemn” in style and are rarely used today except in prayer and poetry. They are not used in ordinary speech, having been replaced by the forms you, your or yours, and you.
Personal pronouns are categorized into three grammatical “persons” based on the relation between the person who is speaking and the person to whom or the thing to which the pronoun refers.
(1) The First Person indicates the person speaking: as, I, me, we, us, etc.
(2) The Second Person indicates the person or thing spoken to: as, you, your, yours.
(3) The Third Person indicates the person or thing spoken of: as, he, she, it, him, her, etc.
The First Person Pronouns in the singular number (I, me, my, mine) are used by the speaker when referring to himself or herself.
The first person plural pronouns (we, our, ours, us) are used by the speaker to refer to himself or herself and other persons with whom he or she is associated in a particular action: in other words, he or she is the speaker for the group.
The so-called “editorial we” used by op-ed writers (“We believe,” “It is our opinion,” instead of “I believe,” “I think”) is based on the idea that the writer is speaking for the entire editorial staff.
The Second Person Pronouns have the same forms for both the singular and plural numbers: you, your, yours, you.
Because you was originally a plural pronoun, the plural verb is always used when you is used as a subject, even when only one person is being addressed: thus, “You were lonely,” never “You was lonely.”
The Third Person Pronouns have the same form in the plural for all genders: they, their or them, theirs.
In the First and Second Persons there is no change of form to indicate gender, and the pronouns I, me, we, us, you, etc., are of masculine or feminine gender according to whether the persons to whom they refer are male or female, respectively.
I am William (masculine).
I am Sandra (feminine).
You are young men (masculine).
You are young women (feminine).
In the Third Person there are different pronouns in the singular number for the different genders—he, she, and it, with their various forms being used to indicate when the person or thing spoken of is male, female, or neuter. In the plural number, the forms are the same no matter what the gender.
Note. It is often used to refer to animals or to very small children, whether male or female.
CASE AND USE
Most personal pronouns have different forms for the nominative, possessive, and objective cases.
The appropriate form to use depends on the way the pronoun is used in the sentence (pronouns have the same general uses as Nouns).
A Nominative Case form (I, we, you, he, she, it, they) is required when the pronoun is used:
(1) As the Subject of a Verb.
He went out for a walk.
They bought a new house.
(2) As a Predicate Pronoun (the same grammatical construction as a predicate noun).
My sister is she.
It is I.
It was they.
The objective case in these constructions is incorrect, though in common use: as, “My sister is her” or “It is me.”
(3) In Apposition with the Subject of a Verb or with a Predicate noun.
John F. Kennedy—he about whom many books have been written—was president during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The candidate was John F. Kennedy—he who would become president.
(4) In the Nominative Absolute construction.
They having reached a decision, the jury was ready to deliver its verdict.
(5) In Direct Address
Okay, you guys, we need to get going.
An Objective Case form (me, us, you, him, her, it, them) is required when the pronoun is used:
(1) As the Direct Object of the Verb.
The panhandler asked us for money.
I saw her there.
(2) As the Indirect Object of a Verb.
My wife made me dinner.
I sent him a package.
(3) As the Object of a Preposition.
I have several paintings by him.
The soldiers shot at them.
That’s between you and me (not I).
(4) In Apposition with an Object of a Verb or of a Preposition.
They formed a neighborhood gang—him and his band of losers.
The contract offered an increase in benefits for the workers—them and their families.
Note. A pronoun theoretically can be used as an objective complement: “Still grieving for their dead mother, the children made their step-mother her.” However, in actual usage the objective complement is seldom a personal pronoun.
The Possessive Case of pronouns, like that of nouns, denotes possession.
The shorter possessive forms—my, our, your, her, and their—are used when a noun follows: as, “This is my car.”
The longer forms—mine, ours, yours, hers, and theirs—are used when no noun follows: as, “This car is mine.” (One still encounters in older English and in poetry the longer forms occurring before nouns: as, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”)
Pronouns in the possessive case do not take an apostrophe: thus, its, hers, theirs. The form it’s is not a possessive case pronoun, but the contraction for it is: as, “It’s a good idea.” Compare, “The campaign lost its momentum” (possessive case).
Case after “Than” and “As.” The case of the pronoun in comparisons using than and as requires special attention. Should we say, for example, “He is taller than I ” or He is taller than me”; “He is as tall as I ” or “He is as tall as me”? These are known as elliptical constructions, and the proper form of the pronoun can be easily determined by expanding the sentence to its fullest. For example, “He is taller than I (am),” “He is as tall as I (am).” Here it is easy to see that the proper form of the pronoun is I because it is the subject of the verb am.
Similarly, the sentence, “She likes Frank more than me” means “She likes Frank more than (she likes) me,” in which case me is in the objective case because it is the object of the verb likes. In addition, the sentence, “She likes Frank more than I,” means “She likes Frank more than I (do).
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