Me, myself or I? The Pronoun Eng 050
Pronouns • We’ve gone over these a few times this semester, but let’s go over some that can cause difficulties. • A refresher: Pronouns are words that take the place of nouns. We use them so we don’t have to repeat the noun. • Instances where they can be problematic • Using the wrong pronoun as the subject • Using the wrong pronoun as an object • Using an apostrophe with a possessive pronoun • Misusing pronouns in comparisons • Misusing demonstrative pronouns
Pronouns as Subjects • These generally don’t cause too many issues. Single pronouns as subjects are generally easy. • Subject Pronoun: I went to the movies with Jamie. • Subject Pronoun: They moved to San Francisco. • Problems occur when you have compound subjects, and one or more of the subjects is a pronoun. • Incorrect: The Cardinals and us tied for first place. • Correct: The Cardinals and we tied for first place. • Remember to drop the “The Cardinals and” to see which is correct.
Subject Pronouns • As a reminder… • Singular pronouns: I, You, He, She, It • Plural pronouns: We, You, They
Pronouns as Objects • Pronouns as Objects • One of the most frequent errors is using a subject pronoun when the sentence calls for an object pronoun. • Incorrect: She invited Bob and I to dinner. • Correct: She invited Bob and me to dinner. • Remember: Ignore the “Bob and” and read the sentence to yourself. “She invited me to dinner.” • Incorrect: This is between you and I. • Correct: This is between you and me. • Remember: Ask yourself the question “who is this between”? The answer is “me.”
Pronouns as Objects • A reminder • Singular object pronoun: Me, You, Him, Her, It • Plural object pronoun: Us, You, Them • Pronouns are used as objects after a verb or after a preposition
Possessive Pronouns • Possessive pronouns show ownership. • While apostrophes are used with nouns to show ownership, possessive pronouns do not require apostrophes. • Because the pronouns themselves show possession, adding an apostrophe would be redundant. • Examples: • Incorrect: The umbrella by the door is her’s. • Correct: The umbrella by the door is hers. • Incorrect: The puppy wanted it’s tummy scratched. • Correct: The puppy wanted its tummy scratched.
Possessive Pronouns • As a reminder • Singular possessive pronouns: my, mine; your, yours; his, her, hers • Plural possessive pronouns: our, ours; your, yours; their, theirs
Pronouns Used in Comparison • Pronouns in comparison (when the words than or as are used) • Object pronouns can mistakenly used instead of subject pronouns • Incorrect: She can run a mile much faster than me. • Correct: She can run a mile much faster than I. • Remember to try reversing the sentence to see if it’s correct. “I can run a mile.” Therefore, the above is correct. • Incorrect: Susan likes him more than she likes I. • Correct: Susan likes him more than she likes me. • Remember our trick. “She likes me.” Therefore the sentence is correct.
Demonstrative Pronouns • Demonstrative pronouns refer to specific people or things. • There’s four: this, that, these, and those. • This and that are used when referring to objects that are near, or close • This apple tastes great. • These are delicious peaches.
Demonstrative Pronouns • These and those are used when referring to objects that are further away • That will be decided later. • Those are the clothes she brought with her. • Examples of incorrect use of demonstrative pronoun • This here; that there • These here; these ones • Them; those there; those ones
Pronoun Reference and Point of View • Anytime you use a pronoun, it must refer to a specific word. The word the pronoun refers to is called the antecedent. • The antecedent can cause two main issues • Antecedent is unclear • Antecedent is missing • There’s a third issue as well: consistent use of the “point of view” of the pronoun. More on that later, but for now…
Pronoun Reference • In a sentence, the pronouns used must clearly indicate the antecedent it is referring to • Let’s look at this sentence: “On the shelf, the camera sat next to a small tape recorder. As Mr. Crutcher reached for it, the shelf began to tip.” The problem with this sentence is that we don’t know which of the two objects Mr. Crutcher was reaching for: the camera or the tape recorder. • You can argue correctly: so what? Who cares what he was reaching for? Does it really matter? You need to remember here that all writing must be clear if it is to be considered good. This sentence as it is written leaves us with a question. Plus, in another context, that small detail might very well be very important.
Pronoun Reference • Here’s another example sentence: “Sarah agreed with April that she shouldn’t get involved.” The question here is who shouldn’t get involved—Sarah or April? • Corrections in both of these cases are simple: You can’t use a pronoun. You need to refer to the specific item or person. • “On the shelf, the camera sat next to a small tape recorder. As Mr. Crutcher reached for the camera, the shelf began to tip.” • “Sarah agreed with April that Sarah shouldn’t get involved.”
Missing Antecedents • Sometimes a writer use a pronoun and neglect to use the word the antecedent refers to. These errors are usually easy to spot because they cause so much confusion when you are reading a sentence. • Incorrect: “In a recent study on teen pregnancy, it says that counseling has a dramatically positive effect.” What does “it” refer to here? The study? Counseling? • Correct: “A recent study on teenage pregnancy says that counseling has a dramatically positive effect.”
Missing Antecedents • Incorrect: “They say the early bird catches the worm.” This sentence begs the question who is “they”? • Correct: “An old saying claims that the early bird catches the worm.”
Shifting Points of View • It’s important when you are writing to use a consistent point of view. For our purposes, point of view refers to which “person” you write in: first, second, or third. • First person: I (singular), we (plural) • Second person: you (singular and plural) • Third person: He, she, it (singular), they (plural) • Inconsistent usage of point of view is very confusing to the reader.
Shifting Points of View • Incorrect: “If a person doesn’t exercise regularly, you can lose flexibility.” Here you’ve shifted from third person to second person. • Correct: “If a person doesn’t exercise regularly, he or she can lose flexibility.” This sentence stays consistently in the third person.
Pronoun Agreement • When we discussed verbs, we learned that verbs must “agree” with each other. If the subject is singular, the verb must be singular; if the subject is plural, the verb must be plural. • The same holds with pronouns, more specifically singular indefinite pronouns (see below for a list) • Another; anybody; anyone; anything; each; either; everybody; everyone; everything; little; much; neither; nobody; none; no one; nothing; one; other; somebody; someone; something.
Pronoun Agreement • Incorrect: “One of the students turned in their paper late.” This is incorrect because you can’t use “their” to refer to “one person.” • Correct: “One of the students turned in his paper late.” This is correct because “his” is singular. • Incorrect: “Somebody left their keys on the table.” • Correct: “Somebody left his or her keys on the table.” You could also use just his or her.
Avoiding Sexism in Writing • As we’ve gone over in the past few slides, you need to use singular pronouns when referring to singular indefinite pronouns. This poses a problem because the pronouns are indefinite: so you don’t know which gender pronoun to use. • In the past (before 1970), you would most likely automatically use “he,” especially when referring to occupations (other than secretary, nurse, or teacher), as in “You should ask your doctor what he recommends.” • While that is technically grammatically correct, it assumes that the doctor is a man. That might have been true at one point, but now your doctor is just as likely to be a woman. To avoid being sexist in your writing, you would say instead “You should ask your doctor what he or she recommends.”