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Working With Pronouns

Jun 2, 2008
For the most part, you can think of pronouns as the general, non-specific nouns used to replace proper nouns in the English language. For example, "John" is the name of a man, but you can use "him" or "his" as a replacement pronoun. The sentence, "John went to John's house," seems clunky but you can improve it by replacing John's name with a pronoun. The sentence, "John went to his house," is a lot easier to read. Pronouns can be very useful, but you do need to make sure that your sentences are clear in terms of who you are talking about.

Possessive Pronouns

Unlike many other languages, the English language uses pronouns to describe ownership. For example, if Jane and Bob own a home, they might say, "this is our home." Or, if you own a watch, you might say, "this is my watch." On the other hand, if someone else is trying to explain who the watch belongs to, they might say, "the watch belongs to him." As you can see, this is very different from other languages, where prepositions are often used in order to delineate ownership.

Using Pronouns to Create Variation

When reading, if you see someone's name in one sentence and then again in the next sentence, you'll start to feel bored with what you're reading. Consider how you feel when reading the following pair of sentences: "Paul was mowing the lawn. Paul moved the lawn mower aside to avoid a rock." Boring, right? In this case, the use of pronouns to replace Paul's name gives the author more freedom of expression, creating a more enjoyable text.

In some cases, constant repetition of a name can actually be construed as sarcasm or aggression. You'll need to take into consideration the age of the person speaking, as well as the tone of voice and the situation. On the other hand, the following pair of sentences is more likely to hold your attention, and conveys a less aggressive meaning: "Paul was mowing the lawn. He moved the lawn mower aside to avoid a rock."

Preventing Confusion When Using Pronouns

In some cases, you may be discussing two people in a sentence that need to be distinguished by their names in order to prevent confusion. Consider the following pair of sentences: "Jessica and Laura went to Wal-Mart. While she was there, she found a beautiful violet plant." As you can see, it's impossible to tell which woman found the violet plant. In order to fix this, you'll have to repeat one of the names in order to clarify the discovery. Therefore, you might change the second sentence to read: "While Jessica was there, she found a beautiful violet plant." It's important to note that you don't need to repeat information about the store, since both women went to the same location.

As with any other part of a language, there are specific times and places when it's appropriate to use pronouns. Because they are not specific nouns, your sentences can become confusing if you aren't clear about which noun you're replacing. That said, it's also important to try and avoid repetition of nouns, as this can be interpreted in a number of unflattering ways.
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At http://1-language.com, there are several articles to help people learn English as well as a free online English course.
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