Subject & Object Pronouns | Definition & Examples
Subject and object pronouns are two different kinds of pronouns (words that replace nouns) that play different grammatical roles in sentences:
- A subject pronoun (I, we, he, she, they, or who) refers to the person or thing that performs an action. It normally appears at the start of a sentence, before the verb.
- An object pronoun (me, us, him, her, them, or whom) refers to the person or thing affected by an action. It normally comes after a verb or preposition.
- All other pronouns (e.g., “you,” “it,” “this,” “one,” “what”) and nouns (e.g., “dog”) have only one form, which is used for both cases.
|Subject pronouns||Object pronouns|
|I go to the library regularly.||Jana told me about it.|
|We haven’t met before.||There’s a letter thanking us for our hospitality.|
|You should visit Paris.||Everyone’s waiting for you outside.|
|He said that John would handle it.||Don’t tell him; it’s a surprise!|
|She has applied for several jobs.||Lots of people admire her.|
|It looks like a tiger.||Somebody ought to look into it.|
|They are arriving tomorrow.||Let’s stick them up on the fridge.|
|Who wants to go first?||Whom are you looking for?|
A subject pronoun (sometimes called a nominative pronoun) functions as the subject of a verb. That means that it represents the person/people or thing(s) that perform the action described. Because of this, it normally appears at the start of the sentence, followed by a verb.
In more complex sentence structures, a subject pronoun may appear in other positions—in the middle of a sentence, after the verb, or separated from the verb. For example, it may form part of a relative clause or a question, or some other words may come between it and the verb.
An object pronoun (sometimes called an objective pronoun) functions as the object of a verb or preposition. That means that it represents the person/people or thing(s) affected by an action. An object pronoun normally appears after a verb (e.g., “tell”) or preposition (e.g., “to”).
The object pronoun isn’t always right next to the verb or preposition it relates to. Separation commonly occurs with whom when it’s used as a relative pronoun or an interrogative pronoun. Some style guides recommend keeping the preposition and the pronoun together when possible, but it’s not mandatory.
You and I or you and me
While most English speakers instinctively understand how to use subject and object pronouns in most contexts, confusion sometimes occurs with combinations like you and I or you and me. Either of these can be the correct choice, depending on the context.
The confusion results from the combination of a pronoun that changes form (I/me) with one that doesn’t (you). The same confusion can occur when a noun is combined with a pronoun (e.g., “me or Jeremy,” “the kids and I”).
To see more clearly whether you need a subject or object pronoun in these contexts, try imagining which you would use if the other word were removed. Simplifying the sentence in this way will make any mistakes obvious.
- You and me went to the beach. [“me went”]
- You and I went to the beach. [“I went”]
- If you have any questions, just ask Jeremy or I. [“just ask I”]
- If you have any questions, just ask me or Jeremy. [“just ask me”]
- A dog came running up to the kids and I. [“running up to I”]
- A dog came running up to the kids and me. [“running up to me”]
Who vs. whom
Distinguishing between who and whom follows the same logic as distinguishing between the subject and object versions of personal pronouns (e.g., I and me), but because of the different word order used in relative clauses and questions, it can be hard to see which one you need.
To see the distinction more clearly, try rephrasing using a personal pronoun. If you use “he,” “she,” or “they,” then the subject pronoun who is the right choice. If you use “him,” “her,” or “them,” then you you need the object pronoun whom.
- The woman who I asked said that she didn’t know. [“I asked she”]
- The woman whom I asked said that she didn’t know. [“I asked her”]
- Whom did you say told you this? [“Them told me this”]
- Who did you say told you this? [“They told me this”]
Quiz: Subject vs. object pronouns
Test your knowledge of the difference between subject and object pronouns with the practice quiz below. Fill in either a subject pronoun (“I,” “we,” “he,” “she,” “they,” or “who”) or an object pronoun (“me,” “us,” “him,” “her,” “them,” or “whom”) in each sentence.
- David loves swimming. In the summer, _____ goes to the beach every weekend.
- Our uncle always sends _____ lovely gifts at Christmas. It’s really nice of _____.
- From _____ did you get this information?
- The people _____ the hero thought were his most loyal supporters turned out to be traitors.
- You and _____ need to discuss something. Please come and see _____ tomorrow.
- There’s always been some tension between Leah and _____.
- David loves swimming. In the summer, he goes to the beach every weekend.
- The subject pronoun “he” (referring to David) is the subject of the verb “goes.”
- Our uncle always sends us lovely gifts at Christmas. It’s really nice of him.
- The object pronoun “us” is the indirect object of the verb “sends.” The object pronoun “him” is the object of the preposition “of.”
- From whom did you get this information?
- The object pronoun “whom” is the object of the preposition “from.”
- The people who the hero thought were his most loyal supporters turned out to be traitors.
- The subject pronoun “who” is the subject of the verb “were.” You can see this clearly by rephrasing the sentence with a personal pronoun: “he thought they were …”
- You and I need to discuss something. Please come and see me tomorrow.
- The subject pronoun “I” is the subject of the verb “need.” The object pronoun “me” is the direct object of the verb “see.”
- There’s always been some tension between Leah and me.
- The object pronoun “me” is the object of the preposition “between.”
Frequently asked questions
- What is a subject pronoun?
A subject pronoun is used as the subject of a verb, which means that it’s the person or thing performing the action. It usually appears before the verb, at the start of a sentence (e.g., “He ran home”).
The subject forms of the personal pronouns are I, we, you, he, she, it, and they. The subject form of the interrogative pronoun or relative pronoun used to refer to people is who.
All other pronouns (e.g., “this,” “somebody,” “many”) have only one form that is used for both subject and object.
- What is an object pronoun?
An object pronoun is used as the object of a verb or a preposition, which means that it’s the person or thing affected by some action. It usually appears after the verb or preposition it relates to (e.g., “ask him,” “speak to them”).
The object forms of the personal pronouns are me, us, you, him, her, it, and them. The object form of the interrogative pronoun or relative pronoun used to refer to people is whom.
All other pronouns (e.g., “someone,” “those,” “few”) have only one form that is used for both subject and object.
- What is a personal pronoun?
Personal pronouns are words like “he,” “me,” and “yourselves” that refer to the person you’re addressing, to other people or things, or to yourself. Like other pronouns, they usually stand in for previously mentioned nouns (antecedents).
They are called “personal” not because they always refer to people (e.g., “it” doesn’t) but because they indicate grammatical person (first, second, or third person). Personal pronouns also change their forms based on number, gender, and grammatical role in a sentence.
Sources in this article
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