Personal Pronouns

Meaning and Uses of Personal Pronouns

The personal pronouns (I, you, he, she, it, we, they, me, him, her, us, and them) are the prime category of pronouns. They are generally used as a substitute for a nounOpens in new window that refers to a specific person or thing.

Personal pronouns change their form when they serve different functions and appear in different parts of a sentenceOpens in new window. These forms are what is called case formsOpens in new window.

The three case forms for personal pronouns are the nominative caseOpens in new window, the possessive caseOpens in new window, and the objective caseOpens in new window.

The chart below illustrates the three case forms that personal pronouns take:
Person & GenderNominative
(Subjective) Case
Possessive Case
1st person singularImemy
2nd person singularyouyouyour
3rd person singular, malehehimhis
3rd person singular, femalesheherher
3rd person singular, neuterititits
1st person pluralweusour
2nd person pluralyouyouyour
3rd person pluraltheythemtheir

If you ponder the illustrations above, you will observe that personal pronouns are divided into three persons:

  1. The First–person pronoun
    The first person is the speaker, either singular or plural, who is represented by I or we.
  2. The second–person pronoun
    The second person refers to the person the speaker is directly addressing, represented by you, for either singular or plural.
  3. The third–person pronoun
    The third person is a person or object spoken of by the first and second persons and represented by he, she, it, if singular according to gender, and by they if plural.
In this section we'll be discussing each of the three case forms.

1.    Nominative Case

The nominative case (also known as subjective case) is used when the pronoun serves as the subjectOpens in new window of a sentenceOpens in new window or a clauseOpens in new window.

  • Singular personal pronouns in the nominative case are I, you, he, she, and it.
  • Plural personal pronouns in the nominative case are we, you, and they.

Sometimes the nominative case is used when the pronoun immediately follows a linking verbOpens in new window.

The words identified in emphasis in the following sentences indicate the uses of nominative case pronouns.
  • I will see you at the executive committee meeting. (subject of sentence)
  • When we close on the new office building, James will announce the purchase to the public in a news conference. (subject of dependent clause)
  • It was they who surveyed the property. (it—as subject of sentence; they—follows linking verb ‘was’)

In the 3rd person, a personal pronoun is used in the nominative or subjective case to prevent repetition of the subject’s name.

Examples include:
  • Kyle has increasingly improved in sales. He deserves a place in the promotion list.
  • The machine is malfunctioning. It needs servicing.

Nominative case is used when the pronoun is the subject.

2.    Objective Case

The objective case is used when the pronoun serves as an objectOpens in new window in a sentenceOpens in new window, clauseOpens in new window, or phraseOpens in new window.

Singular personal pronouns in the objective case include me, you, him, her, and it. The plural ones include us, you, and them.

The following sentences show in emphasis pronouns that serve these functions:
  • Grace directed me to faculty of science in the school. (direct object of a sentence)
  • James threw the ball to him. (object of the preposition ‘to’)
  • When we met him, Isaac was working for our major competitor. (direct object of a clause)
Important Hint! 

Objective case is used when the pronoun is the object. However, it is helpful to note that the personal pronoun one, which is sometimes used in formal contexts where an impersonal tone is appropriate, acts in much the same way as he, she, and it, taking a third person verb ending.

For Example:
  • One needs to be diplomatic when addressing such sensitive matters.

Confusion may sometimes occur regarding personal pronouns when we are unclear about the rules surrounding the subject and object forms, specifically when a pronoun follows a preposition.

The rule is that prepositions Opens in new window should always be followed by the object form of a personal pronoun. Therefore:

  • my husband and me
  • between you and me, and
  • good-bye from Andy and me
  • —Theses are all correct.

But with,

  • my husband and I,
  • between you and I, and
  • goodbye from Andy and I
  • —These are not correct

Note that the rule stands regardless of the number of pronouns following the preposition.

3.    Possessive Case

The possessive case is used when the pronoun indicates possession or ownership. Possessive case for pronouns does not need an apostrophe.

  • Singular possessive pronouns are my, mine, your, yours, his, her, hers, and its.
  • Plural possessive pronouns are our, ours, your, yours, their, and theirs.
A number of examples of pronouns in the possessive case are indicated in emphasis in the following sentences:
  • His wardrobe was burnt in the fire incident. (indicates whose wardrobe)
  • What are your plans for this holiday? (indicates whose plans)
  • If the phone is not yours, it must be hers. (indicate whose phone)
  • Our flight was cancelled because of poor weather condition. (indicates whose flight)
  • Maycoolant rebranded its logo. (indicates whose logo)
Important Hint! 

Possessive case is used when indicating ownership or possession.