Grammar Object Pronouns |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Object Pronouns

Last week we discussed subject pronouns. Now we’ll look at object pronouns.

An object pronoun replaces a noun that is in the object position of a sentence. This means that it receives rather than performs the action of the sentence.

Similar to subject pronouns, object pronouns add economy to language by helping us avoid redundancy and be more frugal with our words and characters. Consider the following sentence:

Softball appeals to Gail. It has been the main sport for Gail since grade school. Some semi-pro teams have asked Gail to join their roster.

We understand what’s being written—but does anything sound plodding to you? The repetition of Gail may seem monotonous to readers beyond early elementary school.

English offers us a way to smooth the sentences out. Since Gail is receiving the action of each sentence, let’s replace some references to Gail with an object pronoun:

Softball appeals to Gail. It has been the main sport for her since grade school. Some semi-pro teams have asked her to join their roster.

That looks and sounds a bit better. The second version says the same thing as the first, but it does so with less perceived repetition. It also uses fewer characters.

In our review of subject pronouns, we pointed out the importance of the antecedent, the word, phrase, or clause that replaces the noun being referred to. In our example above, the antecedent of her is Gail.

An object pronoun can also be plural:

Let’s invite the Robinsons for dinner tonight. We can make them our special pasta dish.

Object Pronouns: Types

As we discussed in our review of them, subject pronouns can be different kinds of pronouns (personal, indefinite, relative, etc.). Object pronouns will most often be personal pronouns and the impersonal pronouns it and one.

me it
you us
him them
her one

Examples

Paul thinks we should give Nancy the antique vase. It will be of most value to her (personal pronoun; antecedent Nancy).

Has anyone seen Michael’s baseball glove? He thought he’d left it (impersonal pronoun; antecedent glove) in the laundry room.

Please hand that pack of gum to me (personal pronoun).

Sweep the garage? Okay, I’ll do it (impersonal pronoun; antecedent full phrase sweep the garage).

One (impersonal pronoun; no antecedent in a generalized expression) would be wise to practice an instrument before performing with it.

Object Pronouns: Different from Subject Pronouns

As reinforcement, we’ll briefly consider the difference between object pronouns and subject pronouns.

We pointed out above that object pronouns receive an action (subject pronouns perform an action). Consider the following sentences:

Obi-Wan has been teaching Luke. He is ready to give him a light saber.

In the second sentence, the object pronoun him stands in for its antecedent, Luke, and receives the action of being given a light saber.

Now consider this:

There’s Luke. He has received a light saber.

In this pair of sentences, the pronoun he likewise stands in for its antecedent, Luke. However, in this case, the pronoun is performing the action of having received a light saber.

Now that you further understand what object pronouns are, when to use them, and how they differ from subject pronouns, you can apply them with additional skill in precise and eloquent writing.

Related Topics

Pronouns
Pronoun Tips

Pop Quiz

Drawing from what we’ve just reviewed, identify the object pronouns in the following sentences (not all will include an antecedent; some might not have an object pronoun).

1. Karen is taking them to soccer practice.

2. Will you give me the salt shaker, or should I get it?

3. They are still looking for ways they might change the tire in the next ten minutes.

4. The cats are hungry. Will you please feed them?

5. By the time we get to Phoenix, the sun should be rising for us.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. Karen is taking them to soccer practice.

2. Will you give me the salt shaker, or should I get it?

3. They are still looking for ways they might change the tire in the next ten minutes. no object pronouns

4. The cats are hungry. Will you please feed them?

5. By the time we get to Phoenix, the sun should be rising for us.

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One response to “Object Pronouns”

  1. Brenda Russell says:

    This is a wonderful description of the proper use of objective pronouns – as long as one already understands the difference between subject and object. The brief definition offered, “An object pronoun replaces a noun that is in the object position of a sentence. This means that it receives rather than performs the action of the sentence.” only works when that definition makes sense to the reader. I’m still trying to explain to my three otherwise-intelligent adult children that “give it to Joe and I” is not correct, and never will be. I’ve tried the suggestion that one would not say “give it to I”, nor should such a construction sound normal to a native English speaker. Thus, adding Joe to the sentence eliminates “I” as a possibility, leaving “me” as a reasonable alternative, which would also be the correct (objective) choice. Then again, I’m not entirely sure that the average native English speaker, these days, is capable of determining what sounds “normal” as possibly correct. I blame parents who fail to correct their children’s grammar; I blame the public school system for a multitude of sins, including failure to teach students correct grammar; I blame students who think grammar doesn’t matter “in real life”; I blame college and university instructors for failing to provide consequences for students who fail to respect the importance of proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling in written assignments; and I blame employers for failing to demand correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling in written communications (such as emails). My goodness, there’s enough blame to go all the way around, isn’t there?

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