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Personal Pronouns‏‎ in English Grammar

Don Corleone: It's PersonalPersonal Pronouns are a subset of pronouns‏‎ which stand in for people, places, things and ideas.

To begin with, here is a full table of all personal pronouns in English:

  Subject Object Reflexive Possessive
singular I me myself mine
singular you you yourself yours
singular masculine he him himself his
singular feminine she her herself hers
singular neutral it it itself its
singular ngs* they them themself their
singular ngs* one one oneself one’s
plural we us ourselves ours
plural you you yourselves yours
plural they them themselves theirs

 

*ngs = non-gender specific; this is an increasingly common form of pronoun to replace gender-specific him/her. Read this article to learn more about this: Gender Neutral Pronouns.

Personal Pronouns as Subjects

The main “actor” in a sentence‏‎ is called the subject; we can replace this subject with a personal pronoun taken from the subject column above:

Alice looked at the cat.
She looked at the cat.

Personal Pronouns as Objects

The subject does something to an object of a sentence. Again we can replace the object with a personal pronoun, this time taken from the object column above:

Alice looked at the cat.
Alice looked at it.

Personal Pronouns as Reflexives

If the subject does something to subject, then this is reflexive. We can replace the second example of the subject with a reflexive pronoun from the table above:

Alice washed Alice.
Alice washed herself.

For more on this, see the main article, Reflexive Pronouns‏‎.

Personal Pronouns as Possessives

Pronouns can also stand in for possession.

I paid for my ice cream and John paid for his ice cream.
I paid for mine and John paid for his.

For more on this, see the main article, Possessive Pronouns‏‎.

You & One – Personal Pronouns

We use the pronoun you in two ways. We can use you to refer to the person we are talking to:

Do you want to come with me?

Where did you go last night?

Note that unlike many other languages, when we use the word you there is no distinction as to whether we are talking about one person or many. On the phone you might, for example, say:

Do you want to come to a party next week?

This might mean you are inviting just the person at the end of the phone or it could mean you are inviting the person and their partner, etc.

We can also use you to talk about people in general. In this first below suppose you are talking to a friend who can’t decide whether to go to college or not. You might say:

You can’t get a good job without qualifications.

However, suppose you are talking with friends about the current state of education in the country. You are not talking to any of them specifically but instead are making a general statement about the situation regarding education and employment. You might say:

You can’t get a good job without qualifications.

In addition, we can also use one instead of you to talk about people in general. This is more formal and less common in everyday speech:

One can’t get a good job without qualifications.

Useful Links

The ICAL Grammar Foundation Course – a course in English grammar.

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