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Pronoun Usage

A pronoun (e.g., he, she, it, they) is a word used in the place of a noun, which is used to represent people, things, and ideas. In writing, readers often become confused when a pronoun is used without a clear indication of what noun it is replacing (the antecedent). Make sure it is clear to whom or what your pronoun is referring.

Examples:

  • Incorrect: The red team was losing to the blue team, but they had a lot of injured players. [Which team had a lot of injured players? It is unclear because the pronoun ‘they’ is supposed to refer to the noun that immediately precedes it, but it also matches the other noun in the sentence.]
  • Correct A:  The blue team was winning against the red team, but the red team had a lot of injured players.
  • Correct B: The red team had many injured players and was losing against the blue team.

APA now recommends the use of ‘they’ to refer to individuals in the interest of non-gendered writing, i.e., if you do not know the gender of the subject or are referring to people in general.

  • Correct: When the teacher went to buy some supplies, they used their credit card. [Gender unknown]
  • Correct: When the teacher, Ms. Lee, went to buy some supplies, she used her credit card. [If the gender is known, use the appropriate pronoun. In this case the teacher is a female.]
  • Correct: When the teacher, Mr. Simpson, went to buy some supplies, he used his credit card. [If the gender is known, use the appropriate pronoun. In this case the teacher is a male.]

Common pronouns in English

 

Subject

Object

Adjective

Possessive

Reflexive

1st person singular

I

me

my

mine

myself

2nd person singular

you

you

your

yours

yourself

3rd person singular

he

she

it

him

her

it

his

her

its

his

hers

its

himself

herself

itself

1st person plural

we

us

our

ours

ourselves

2nd person plural

you

you

your

yours

yourselves

3rd person plural

they

them

their

theirs

themselves

 

References:

Lee, C. (2019). Welcome, Singular ‘They’. Retrieved from https://apastyle.apa.org/blog/singular-they