11 More About Pronouns


The subject form of a pronoun is used as the subject of a sentence or a dependent clause. Here are two examples:

They work 20 hours per week.

We students need to meet more often.

The object form of a pronoun is used as a direct object, an indirect object or the object of a preposition.

The room was reserved for them.
(object form of a pronoun in a prepositional phrase)

The profit can be split between you and me.
(object form of two pronouns in a prepositional phrase)

The coach encouraged them.
(direct object of the verb “encouraged”)

The chancellor wrote him a letter.
(indirect object of the verb “write”)


Which sentence is correct?

We students need to study grammar.
Us students need to study grammar.

This chapter will answer that question and clarify other common pronoun problems.

We’ll start with a preview question about pronoun forms.

In this chapter, you’ll need to distinguish between subject and object forms of pronouns.

Subject Forms Object Forms
First Person I, we me, us
Second Person you you
Third Person she, he, it, they her, him, them

The Purdue OWL website features a helpful pronoun chart as well. After you’ve studied the chart above, we’ll explore object pronouns by looking at two more sentences.

The most common type of sentence structure is subject-verb-direct object. Here are examples.

The baby saw his big sister.
baby (subject)   saw (verb)   sister (direct object) 

The baby then hugged her.
baby (subject)  hugged (verb)   her (direct object) 

The two sample sentences above show that a pronoun can act as a direct object, in which case you use the object form of the pronoun (such as her instead of she in the second sentence above). In simple terms, a direct object receives the action of a verb, such as the sister receiving a hug in the second sentence above. Baby is the subject performing the action verb hugged, while her is the direct object receiving the hug.

The following flip card further explains direct objects.

Direct objects are common in well-written sentences.  Occasionally, a sentence will also contain an indirect object, which comes between the verb and the direct object. The indirect object can be a noun or pronoun, and it usually shows who or what receives the direct object. In these two sentences, the object form of a pronoun acts as the indirect object.

The assistant gave me a packet of information.
assistant (subject)    gave (verb)    me (indirect object)    packet (direct object)

The politician handed them campaign buttons.
politician (subject)    handed (verb)    them (indirect object)    buttons (direct object)

Below are two interactive questions that highlight some common confusion for collegiate writers. Here’s the first question:

And here’s the second question.

Now you can try this wrap-up question for review.


Guidelines for pronoun usage are evolving. People who identify as transgender, nonbinary, agender or gender-fluid may prefer they/them/their as gender-neutral singular personal pronouns.

The Associated Press Stylebook acknowledges that singular forms of they may confuse some readers. On the other hand, the AP Stylebook notes that avoiding the singular they “may make some people feel censored or invisible.”

Here are two separate verbatim suggestions from the Associated Press.

1. When using they/them/their as a singular pronoun, explain if it isn’t clear in context: Morales, who uses the pronoun they, said they will retire in June.

2. In general, do not use neopronouns such as xe or zim; they are rarely used and are unrecognizable as words to general audiences.

For historical perspective and additional viewpoints, consult the Purdue OWL section titled Gendered Pronouns & Singular “They.”

In closing, you should now understand the answer to the question posed at the start of this chapter.

We students need to study grammar.
(NOT Us students need to study grammar).


Below are additional usage questions based on the first two chapters about pronouns. These questions may help you study for course assignments or a proficiency exam.

Advance through the following sets of practice questions by using the forward button or clicking on sections of the control bar. To enlarge any interactive presentation in this guidebook, click on the lower-right full-screen option (arrows):


1. Write a sentence that has a pronoun as a direct object and uses the past-tense verb caught.
Underline the subject, italicize the verb and use bold text for the direct object.

2. Write a sentence that has a pronoun as an indirect object and uses the past-tense verb sent.
Underline the subject, italicize the verb, and use bold text for the direct object.
Use underlined bold text for the indirect object. 

3. In two tightly constructed sentences, explain your key takeaway from this chapter. Do not use any first-person pronouns (such as I, me, my or mine) in your writing.


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