What Is A Personal Pronoun? Definition And Examples

Nouns do a lot of work in our writing and in our speech. However, using the same noun repeatedly can make for some very repetitive sounding sentences: The cat meowed. The cat was hungry. The cat was looking for the cat’s owner. After the cat ate, the cat slept in the spot prepared for the cat. Enough, already! Let this cat sleep and stop using the same noun over and over! To avoid cat-astrophic sentences like these, we can use pronouns to swap in for nouns. Pronouns are commonly used words, and a specific type of pronoun gives a sentence the personal touch: the personal pronoun.

What is a personal pronoun?

A personal pronoun is a pronoun typically used to refer to a speaker or to the people or things that a speaker is referring to. Often, personal pronouns are used to replace proper names as in Olivia went to bed early because she (Olivia) worked hard today.

Like all other pronouns, personal pronouns only replace nouns and not other parts of speech, like verbs or adjectives. Grammatically, they act exactly the same as nouns and can act as a subject or object of a clause, phrase, or sentence.

While we typically use personal pronouns to refer to people, we can also use them to refer to animals, too. For example,

  • I bought my cat a new toy, and he loves it.

Some personal pronouns are also used to refer to inanimate objects or concepts:

  • Our house looked very nice after we painted it.
  • Follow the steps of the recipe exactly, because they must be done in a specific order.

List of personal pronouns

We can use personal pronouns to refer to a single person/thing or many people/things.

Singular personal pronouns

A personal pronoun is singular if it refers to exactly one person or thing. The most commonly used singular personal pronouns are:

  • First person: I, me
  • Second person: you
  • Third person: she, her, he, him, it

Plural personal pronouns

A personal pronoun is plural if it refers to more than one person or thing. The most commonly used plural personal pronouns are:

  • First person: we, us
  • Second person: you
  • Third person: they, them


They and them as singular personal pronouns

While the words they and them are usually plural, it is acceptable to use them as singular words. As singular pronouns, they and them are often used neutrally to refer to a person without specifying their gender. For example,

  • A person is free to act as they wish.
  • The doctor helped anyone who came to them.

Even when used as a singular, the word they still uses a plural verb:

  • I think you should always listen to your best friend. They know what is best for you.

They and them are sometimes used as singular pronouns by those who identify as nonbinary:

  • I am meeting Hunter at the mall. They want to go clothes shopping with me.

What is a gender-neutral and nonbinary pronoun?

In the above list of singular personal pronouns, the words she, her, he, and him are unique in that they are used to specify a person’s (or animal’s) gender. While these are the most common, there are plenty of other personal pronouns available that don’t carry any kind of association with a particular gender.

It is important not to misidentify someone, even accidentally, by carelessly using gendered language when it isn’t needed. Luckily, there is an easy way to ensure your speech and writing is inclusive of all gender identities: you can use gender-neutral language. If you don’t know which personal pronoun is best to use—or would prefer not to use a gendered pronoun at all—the word they is just what you need.

The pronoun they can be (and is increasingly) used as a singular gender-neutral or nonbinary substitute for the gender-specific pronouns he and she. (Other terms are also used in this way, but they is the most common.) They can be used when you don’t want or need to specify someone’s gender. It can also be used when referring to a person who identifies as nonbinary. In this case, it’s always important to use the pronouns that the person prefers.

To learn more, explore in-depth resources about the pronoun they and gender-neutral language.

Examples of personal pronouns

Singular personal pronouns

  • I exercise every day.
  • Raymond has always been nice to me.
  • Victoria gave Martin a present and he gave one to her.
  • You should brush your teeth regularly.
  • An ant can lift something that weighs much more than it does.

Plural personal pronouns

  • We built a snowman.
  • The price of the jewelry surprised us.
  • Jack’s clothes were soaked after the car splashed them.
  • The workers went on strike because they wanted higher pay.
  • The monkeys entertained the guests that came to see them.

Adjectives and adverbs add flair to sentences by describing other types of words. Learn how to use each one, and even how to make adjectives into adverbs!

How to use personal pronouns

Each personal pronoun has a specific meaning. It is important to know what each of them are so that you can properly use them in sentences.

  • I and me are used to refer to the one who is speaking or the author of a piece of writing. I is used as a subject, and me is used as an object. Both words are singular.
  • You is used to refer to a person or people that isn’t the speaker or author. You can be used as either a subject or an object, and it can be used as a singular or plural.
  • He, him, she, and her are used to refer to another person or to an animal. All of these words are gendered pronouns: he and him are commonly used to refer to a male person/animal, and she and her are used to refer to a female person/animal. All of these words are singular. He and she are used as subjects while him and her are used as objects.
  • It is used to refer to non-living things, abstract concepts, or animals of unknown sex. It is a singular word and can be used as a subject or an object.
  • We and us are used to collectively refer to a speaker/author plus other people. Both words are plural. We is used as a subject, and us is used as an object.
  • They and them are used to refer to other people or things. They is used as a subject, and them is used as an object. While they and them are often used as plural words, it is possible to use they and them as singular words to refer to a person of unknown gender or to a nonbinary person.

For clarity, it is a good idea to use a personal pronoun after introducing the noun that it is replacing. For example:

  • Less clear: He went to the store and bought a new hat.
  • More clear: Allen went to the store, and he bought a new hat.

In general, you don’t need to do this with the pronouns I, me, and you. These pronouns can only refer to either the person speaking/writing or everyone else.

Personal pronouns follow the same major rule that all other pronouns do. They only replace nouns, and they follow the same rules of grammar that nouns do. This means that we can use personal pronouns as subjects or objects:

  • Subject: We looked for seashells at the beach.
  • Object: Gina said she gave the envelope to you.

When using personal pronouns, they must follow subject-verb agreement. This means that a singular personal pronoun uses a singular verb and a plural personal pronoun uses a plural verb. For example,

  • Singular: He is my best friend. (He is a singular pronoun and is a singular verb.)
  • Plural: I bought the shoes because they were on sale. (Both they and were are plural.)

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Do you possess enough knowledge on possessive pronouns? Read this article and you will!

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