English Grammar Pronoun Rules

 A pronoun is a word used instead of a noun. Now consider the following cases:

Since a pronoun is used instead of a Noun, it must be of the same number, gender and person as the noun for which it stands. For example: Those beggars are idle. They refuse to work for their living.

Please consider the following two sentences.

  • a) After a few hearings the jury gave its verdict. (Pronoun ‘its is used in place of noun jury’).
  • b) The jury were divided in their opinions. (Pronoun ‘their’ is used in place of noun ‘jury’)

You must be wondering why different pronoun its’ and ‘their’ is used in place of the same noun ‘jury’ The reason is when a pronoun stands for a collective noun it must be in the singular number and neutral gender. (Sentence a). But when collective noun conveys the idea of separate individuals comprising the whole, the pronoun standing for it must be of the plural number. In sentence b, it is clear that members of the jury are not behaving as whole.

For example:

  • a) The committee is reconsidering its decision.
  • b) The committee decided the matter without leaving their seats.

Pronouns in sentences found by conjunction

When two or more singular nouns are joined by ‘and’, the pronoun used for them must be plural.

For example: Rama and Hari work hard. Their teachers praise them.

But when two Singular nouns joined by ‘and’ refer to the same person or thing, the pronoun should be singular.

For example: The Secretary and Treasurer is negligent of his duty. Here the same person is acting as Secretary and Treasurer. That’s why singular pronoun is used.

When two singular nouns joined by ‘and’ are preceded by ‘each’ or ‘every’, then the pronoun must be singular

For example: Every soldier and every sailor was in his place.

When two or more singular nouns are joined by ‘or’, ‘either…or’, ‘neither…nor’, the pronoun is generally singular.

For example:

  1. a) Neither Abdul nor Rehman has done his lessons.
  2. b) Either Rama or Hari must help his friend.
When a plural and a singular noun are joined by ‘or’ or ‘nor’, the pronoun must be in the plural

For example: Either the manager or his assistants failed in their duty.

When two things which have been already mentioned are referred to, ‘this’ refers to the thing last mentioned and ‘that to the thing first mentioned.

For example: Alcohol and Tobacco are both injurious: this perhaps less than that.

Rules regarding personal pronouns

Which sentence is correct?

  • a) The presents are for you and me.
  • b) The presents are for you and I.

Sentence a) is correct. Pronoun has to agree with the case. Here it is the objective case. So, ‘me’ should be used instead of ‘I’.

For example: My uncle asked my brother and me to dinner.

Which sentence is correct?

  • a) He loves you more than I.
  • b) He loves you more than me.

Sentence a) is correct ‘Than’ is a conjunction joining clauses. And the case of the pronoun to be used may be found by writing the clauses in full. So, in sentence a.) two clauses joined by ‘than’ are ‘He loves you more’ and ‘I love you’. Being a subjective case, ‘I’ should be used.

For example:

  • a) He is taller than (am).
  • b) He loves you more than (he loves) me.
When a pronoun refers to more than one noun or pronouns of different persons, it must be of the first person plural in preference to the second and of the second person plural in preference to the third.

For example :

  • a) You and I, husband and wife, have to look after your home. (Incorrect)
  • b) You and I, husband and wife, have to look after our home. (Correct)

Now, common sense tells us that if we are a couple, wife and husband, the feeling of togetherness is expressed by our home, not your home. And so does grammar Rule: 123. 1stands for first person, 2 for second person and 3 for third person. The order of precedence is: 1 before 2 and 2 before 3. In the given example, we have 2 and 1. So 1 will apply; that is, first person. The number, of course, will be plural. Let us take another example.

  • a) You and Hari have done their duty, (Incorrect)
  • b) You and Hari have done your duty. (Correct)

Applying 123 rule. You = 2 and Hari =3.

So, 2. Second person plural gives ‘your’. Similarly, when all the three persons are taken into account, it has to be I; that is, first person plural.

  • a) You, he and I have not forgotten your roots. (Incorrect)
  • b) You, he and I have not forgotten our roots. (Correct)
Each, either and neither are always singular and are followed by the verb in the singular

For example :

  • a) Neither of the accusations is true.
  • b) Each boy took his turn.
  • c) Each of the lady performs her duty well.

Please consider the following sentences.

  • a) This is the boy. He works hard. (He subjective case)
  • b) This is the boy. His exercise is done well. (His is possessive case)
  • c) This is the boy. All praise him. (Him is objective case)
An apostrophe is never used in ‘its’, ‘yours’ and ‘theirs’.
The complement of the verb be, when it is expressed by a pronoun should be in the nominative form.

For example :

  • a) It was he (not him),
  • b) It is (not me) that gave the prizes away.
  • c) It might have been he (not him).
The case of a pronoun following than or as is determined by mentally supplying the verb.

For example :

  • a) He is taller than (am).
  • b) I like you better than he (likes you).
  • c) They gave him as much as (they gaveme.
A pronoun must agree with its Antecedent in person, number and gender.

For example :

  • a) All passengers must show their (not his) tickets.
  • b) I am not one of those who believe everything they (not I) hear

Rules regarding demonstrative pronouns

Uses of THAT

1. After adjectives in the superlative degree.

For example.

  • a) This is the best that we can do.
  • b) He is the best speaker that we ever heard.

2. After the words all, same, any, none, nothingonly.

For example:

  • a) Man is the only animal that can talk.
  • b) He is the same man that he has been.

3. After two antecedents, one denoting a person and the other denoting an animal or a thing.

For example : The man and his pet that met with an accident yesterday died today.

What and That refer to persons as well as things.

Rules regarding relative pronouns

On combining each of the above pairs into one sentence

  • a) This is the boy who works hard (Who in place of He)
  • b) This is the boy whose exercise is done well. (whose in place of His)
  • c) This is the boy whom all praise. (Whom in place of Him)

The above sentences show when to use who, whose and whom. Who is the subjective case, Whose the possessive case and Whom the objective case.

Who is used for persons only. It may refer to a singular or plural noun.

For example:

  • a) He who hesitates is lost.
  • b) Blessed is he who has found his work.
Whose can be used for persons as well as things without life also.

For example:

  • a) This is the hotel whose owner is a criminal.
  • b) This is the person whose will power is extraordinary.
Which is used for inanimate things and animals. Which is used for both singular as well as plural noun.

For example :

  • a) I have found the book which I had lost last week.
  • b) The horse, which won the race yesterday, is my favourite.
When ‘which’ is used for selection, it may refer to a person as well as things.

For example :

  • a) Which of the packets is yours?
  • b) Which of the boy has not done his homework?
Who, Which, Whom, That, Whose should be placed as near to the antecedent as possible.

For example :

  • a) I with my family reside in Delhi, which consists of my wife and parents.

This sentence is wrong as which relates to ‘my’ family’. So ‘which’ should be placed as near to family’ as possible. So, the correct sentence is

  • b) I with my family which consists of my wife and parents, reside in Delhi.
Who is used In the nominative cases and whom in the objective cases.

For example :

  • a) There is Mr. Dutt, who (not whom) they say is the best painter in the town.
  • b) The Student, whom (not who) you thought so highly of, has failed to win the first prize.
When the subject of a verb is a relative pronoun, the verb should agree in number and person with the antecedent of the relative.

For example :

  • a) This is one of the most interesting novels that have (not has) appeared this year. (Here, antecedent of relative pronoun that is novels and not one)
  • b) This is the only one of his poems that is (not are) worth reading. (Here the antecedent of that is one and not poems).

Kindly note the difference between sentence a and b

Other useful rules

None is used in the singular or plural as the sense may require.

For example:

  • a) Each boy was accompanied by an adult but there were none, with the orphan (Incorrect)
  • b) Each boy was accompanied by an adult but there was none with the orphan. (Correct)
  • c) I am used to many guests everyday but there was none today. (Incorrect)
  • d) I am used to many guests everyday but there were none today. (Correct)
When ‘one’ is used as pronoun, its possessive form ‘one’s’ should follow instead of his, her etc.

For example : One must put one’s best efforts if one wishes to succeed.

With let objective case of the pronoun is used.

For example: let you and me do it.

If a pronoun has two antecedents, it should agree with the nearer one.

For example:

  • a) I hold in high esteem everything and everybody who reminds me of my failures.
  • b) I hold in high esteem everybody and everything, which reminds me of my failures.
In referring to anybody, everybody, anyone, each etc., the pronoun of the masculine or the feminine gender is used according to the context.

For example.

  • a) I shall be glad to help everyone of my boys in his studies.
  • b) I shall be glad to help everyone of my girls in her studies.
  • c) I shall be glad to help everyone of my students in his studies.

But when gender is not determined, the pronoun of the masculine gender is used as in sentence c.

The pronoun one should be used throughout, if used at all.

For example:

  • a) One must use one’s best efforts if one wishes to succeed.
  • b) One should be careful about what one says.
Plural is commonly used with none.

For example.

  • a) None of his poems are well known.
  • b) None of these words are now current.
Anyone should be used when more than two persons or things are spoken of.

For example: She was taller than anyone of her five sisters.