Skip to Content
Graduate Writing Center

Nested Portlets Nested Portlets

Web Content Display Web Content Display

Pronouns


Pronouns—words like “we,” “it,” “they,” “those,” “something”—stand in for nouns, sort of how someone might hold your place in line: they aren’t you, exactly, but they’re the equivalent of you in the structure of the line.

This proxy relationship is very similar to that between nouns and pronouns in a sentence: pronouns do the same work as nouns (and some other jobs to boot), but they’re not exactly the same.

The key difference is that nouns are self-defining—they are what they are—while pronouns are generic placeholders that acquire meaning as writers use them in concert with nouns:

Elizabeth I was 25 when she assumed the throne on January 15, 1559.

Why do we need such a tool? Primarily to avoid nearly maddening amounts of repetition:

Clausewitz argues this. Clausewitz further argues that. Clausewitz then expands on Clausewitz’s theory that Clausewitz set forth in Clausewitz’s prior volume.

It’s enough to put your readers at their witz’ end.

That said, while pronouns are certainly useful, their shifting signification can become ambiguous—and therefore an impediment to clarity—if writers don’t use them carefully.

That’s no reason to avoid them, though, and the following sections offer tips on adept pronoun use, while the links below further lay out the many useful things that pronouns can do for you, me, and everyone.

 

Subject vs. Object Prounouns

Deciding whether to use the subject pronoun or the object pronoun can trip writers up when pronouns and nouns appear together, resulting in errors like these:

  • Me and you will reformat the tables while the others revise the analysis section.
  • The director consulted Charmaine and I about the glue budget.  

Temporarily removing the noun(s) from these constructions can help clarify which pronoun is correct:

  • No: Me will reformat the tables while the others revise the analysis section.
  • Yes: I will reformat the tables while the others revise the analysis section.
  • Yes: You and I will reformat the tables while the others revise the analysis section.
     
  • No: The director consulted I about the glue budget.
  • Yes: The director consulted me about the glue budget.
  • Yes: The director consulted Charmaine and me about the glue budget.
     

Pronouns Links

Web Content Display Web Content Display

All-Topics Index


The following index makes searching for a specific topic easier and links to the appropriate place in the sequenced material. We think we have most of them, but please email us at writingcenter@nps.edu if we are missing something!

Web Content Display Web Content Display

A

abbreviations

abstracts

academic writing

acronyms

active voice

apostrophes

argument

article usage

assignments, understanding them

audience

 

B

body paragraphs

brainstorming

building better sentences tips

 

C

citations

citation styles

clarity

clustering

coaching sessions, about

colons

commas, FANBOYS

commas, introductory

commas, list

commas, nonessential elements

commas, Oxford

commonly confused words 

compare-and-contrast papers 

concision

conclusions

conjunctive adverbs

coordinating conjunctions

copyright and fair use

critical thinking  

 

D

dangling modifiers

dashes

dependent marker words

double submission of coursework

drafting

 

E

edit your own work

editing – outside editors

exclamation points

executive summary

 

F

FANBOYS

FAQs

footnotes

free-writing

 

G

gerunds

grammar

group writing

 

H

hyphens

 

I

ibid.

introductions

 

J

Joining the Academic Conversation

 

L

LaTeX

library liaisons 

literature reviews 

logic and analysis 

 

M

memos

methodologies

 

N

note-taking

numbers

 

O

organization

outlining

Oxford comma

 

P

paragraph development 

parallelism

paraphrasing

parts of speech

passive voice

periods

persuasion

phrases and clauses

plagiarism, how to avoid through citations

plain language

polishing

prepositional phrases 

prepositions

pronouns

punctuation

purpose of research

 

Q

questions

quotation marks 

quoting

 

R

reading with intent

redundancies                                                                

reference software

reflection papers 

research

research questions

reverse outlining 

revising passive voice into active voice

revision

roadmaps                                            

run-on sentences 

 

S

self-citing

semi-colons

subjects, grammatical

significance

so-what?

spelling

standard essay structure

STEM/technical writing 

style

subject/verb agreement

 

T

technical writing

that vs. which

thesis writing

thesis advisors

thesis process overview

thesis process tips

thesis proposals – common elements                                                     

thesis statements

tone, professional

topic sentences 

transitions

types of papers

 

U

United States or U.S.?

 

V

verbs and verb tense

 

W

which vs. that

Why write?

writer’s block 

writing process