Column: Object and subject pronouns
What is an object pronoun? What’s a subject pronoun? Why are they so confounding to people?
I have no answer for the latter question, but for the first two I think I can help.
First off: What’s a pronoun? A pronoun is a proform that stands in for a noun or noun clause. In the sentence, “I just called John and he is ready to go,” “he” is a pronoun referring to the noun “John.” The noun a pronoun refers to is called the “antecedent.”
For the purpose of this column, pronouns come in two main varieties: subject and object. A subject pronoun is used when it is standing in as the subject of a sentence. An object pronoun is used as the object of a verb or preposition (which, ultimately, is probably the object of a verb).
In English, our subject pronouns are: I; he; she; we; they; and who. Our object pronouns are: me; him; her; us; them; and whom. The pronouns “it,” “you” and “what” can be used as either subject or object pronouns, depending upon the context.
How do you figure out is you need a subject or object pronoun, though? Ask yourself: Is this pronoun performing an action, or is it the recipient of an action? A subject performs an action, while an object is acted upon or receives an action.
Let’s consider this example sentence: “Sally threw the football to Megan.” Sally is throwing the football, so she is the subject. Megan is receiving the football (i.e. receiving Sally’s action), so she would get an object pronoun. With pronouns substituted, that sentence would look like: “She threw the football to her.”
Try to remember this going forward: I/he/she/we/who/they do things. Things are done to me/him/her/us/whom/them. And if you hear someone misusing pronouns, try to help them. Only you can prevent pronoun abuse.