The All-Important Pronouns Study Guide (page 2)

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Updated on Sep 30, 2011

The Proper Use of Emoticons

Emoticons are representations of facial expressions of emotion created by typing a sequence of characters to suggest an expression such as a smile or a frown. If you think about it, emoticons are a kind of pronoun, because they stand for something else. Emoticons were first used as a typing shortcut in the sending of informal e-mails and instant messages, and are perfectly acceptable to use in personal communications. However, they do not belong in formal writing. If used there, they suggest immaturity and lack of seriousness on the part of the writer. It is best not to use emoticons in your published essays, stories, or school papers; instead, save them for more informal conversations with friends.


Using the right personal pronoun is one of the hardest lessons for students and adults alike. Study the chart above carefully until you are sure you know the difference between subjective and objective pronouns. Then, whether you are speaking or writing, try always to consider whether you are using a pronoun as the main subject of the sentence or clause (the person or thing doing the action) or if you are using the pronoun to describe the person or thing having something done or said to them.

Special Reminder: The Linking Verb Rule

When a pronoun functions as the object of a linking verb (any form of the verb to be, for example, is, am, are, was, were, been, can be, will be, should be), you must use the subjective form of the pronoun. This may sound formal and awkward to you, but it is a strict rule, and if you remember to observe this rule, your readers (and listeners) will immediately recognize you as a skilled and educated writer. And that's what you want, right? Here are some correct samples of this usage:

      The best player in the band is he.
      The fans who adore him are you and I.
      The happy manager of the band was she.


A good way to check for accuracy with linking verb sentences is to turn the sentence upside down and see if it sounds right. For example, He is the best player in the band sounds right; and Him is the best player in the band does not sound right.

Reflexive and Intensive Pronouns

You use reflexive and intensive pronouns all the time, even if you don't remember their category names. Here are clear definitions to remind you about them, and to make it easier for you to use these pronouns correctly in the future. Note that they all end in self or selves.

Reflexive pronouns refer to the subject of the sentence and direct the action of the sentence back to the subject. Reflexive pronouns are always essential to the sentence's meaning.

      John Lennon dedicated himself to promoting world peace.
      Yoko Ono joined John and called herself a peace advocate.

      Intensive pronouns emphasize another pronoun or noun in the sentence.

      The Beatles themselves wrote all of their own music.
      I myself have always been a devoted fan of Ringo.
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