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Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns represent specific people or things. We use them depending on:

  • number: singular (eg: I) or plural (eg: we)
  • person: 1st person (eg: I), 2nd person (eg: you) or 3rd person (eg: he)
  • gender: male (eg: he), female (eg: she) or neuter (eg: it)
  • case: subject (eg: we) or object (eg: us)

We use personal pronouns in place of the person or people that we are talking about. My name is Josef but when I am talking about myself I almost always use "I" or "me", not "Josef". When I am talking direct to you, I almost always use "you", not your name. When I am talking about another person, say John, I may start with "John" but then use "he" or "him". And so on.

Here are the personal pronouns, followed by some example sentences:

number person gender personal pronouns
subject object
singular 1st male/ female I me
2nd male/ female you you
3rd male he him
female she her
neuter it it
plural 1st male/ female we us
2nd male/ female you you
3rd male/ female/ neuter they them

Examples (in each pair, the first sentence shows a subject pronoun, the second an object pronoun):

  • I like coffee. / John helped me.
  • Do you like coffee? / John loves you.
  • He runs fast. / Did Ram beat him?
  • She is clever. / Does Mary know her?
  • It doesn't work. / Can the man fix it?
  • We went home. / Anthony drove us.
  • Do you need a table for three? / Did John and Mary beat you at doubles?
  • They played doubles. / John and Mary beat them.

When we are talking about a single thing, we almost always use it. However, there are a few exceptions. We may sometimes refer to an animal as he/him or she/her, especially if the animal is domesticated or a pet. Ships (and some other vessels or vehicles) as well as some countries are often treated as female and referred to as she/her. Here are some examples:

  • This is our dog Rusty. He's an Alsatian.
  • The Titanic was a great ship but she sank on her first voyage.
  • My first car was a Mini and I treated her like my wife.
  • Thailand has now opened her border with Cambodia.

For a single person, sometimes we don't know whether to use he or she. There are several solutions to this:

  • If a teacher needs help, he or she should see the principal.
  • If a teacher needs help, he should see the principal.
  • If a teacher needs help, they should see the principal.

We often use it to introduce a remark:

  • It is nice to have a holiday sometimes.
  • It is important to dress well.
  • It's difficult to find a job.
  • Is it normal to see them together?
  • It didn't take long to walk here.

We also often use it to talk about the weather, temperature, time and distance:

  • It's raining.
  • It will probably be hot tomorrow.
  • Is it nine o'clock yet?
  • It's 50 kilometres from here to Cambridge.