Pronoun Gender, Number, and Case

It’s a little surprising that the shortest words are grammatically sometimes the most challenging ones. A pronoun is a word that replaces a noun. A noun that is replaced by a pronoun is called the antecedent.
A pronoun takes the gender (masculine or feminine), number (singular or plural), and case (subject or object) of the noun it replaces. In many sentences, this rule is easy to apply.

Example: Mark is at the office today. He will call at 12pm.

Mark is the subject of the sentence, masculine (as Mark is a man), and singular (because Mark is one person). He is the subject pronoun that is also masculine and singular. Therefore, the pronoun he replaces the noun Mark.

When choosing a pronoun, the following rules are the ones that often cause errors, even by native speakers. Follow these guidelines to avoid errors in pronoun choice:

Rule 1: When a person does the action, use a subject pronoun (I, you, he, she, they, and who).

    • The colleague who was here yesterday is out today.
    • Alicia and we attended the training together.

Rule 2: When a person receives the action, use an object pronoun (me, you, him, her, them, and whom).

    • Send the slide deck to her and me.
    • The person whom I called is out of the office.
    • Whom do you believe?

Rule 3: When a person does something for or by himself or herself, use a reflexive pronoun (myself, yourself, himself, herself, ourselves, or themselves.)

    • When you contact Roger or me, be sure to leave your number
      or email.
    • Please translate the reports for Joseph and me.

No one is born knowing which pronoun to use in every instance of every sentence. Even experienced teachers and writers have to practice identifying which pronoun to use in confusing cases. Just like any other skill, learning which pronoun to use in various sentences becomes easier and more natural with practice.