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Getting To Know ‘You’: Using Personal Pronouns and First Person Pronouns

What is a personal pronoun? How about, is you a personal pronoun? These are the nouns you probably think of first when you think about pronouns: words that refer to a specific person, place, thing, or idea without using its proper name. In most cases, they replace the proper name after it has already been used, but a few of these words name people without any antecedent. In this guide, you will learn about both personal pronouns and first person pronouns and all of their instances. Read further ahead to answer what are personal pronouns in your own words.

Subjects and Objects

A list of these particular personal pronouns would be fairly short: I, me, you, he, him, she, her, it, we, us, they, them. Essentially, there is a form for each person and number, depending on whether the noun it is replacing is the subject or object of the sentence.

  • I, he, she, it, we, and they are subjects
  • Me, him, her, us, and them are objects
  • You and it can function in both capacities

So, what are personal pronouns and how do they fit into sentence structures? In general, a personal pronoun replaces a previously-named noun (its antecedent) with a clear correlation between the two.

  • Joan and I met in college. We work at the same company now.
  • Bob was supposed to pick up the cake, but he forgot.

In both of these sentences, the personal pronoun is clearly replacing its predecessor: Joan and I become we, and Bob becomes he. Let’s look more closely at each group.

You and I: What is a Personal Pronoun?

The majority of personal pronouns are replacements for a previous proper noun: a name that clearly identifies someone, somewhere, or something. However, there are two words that exist as their own entities because they are the only way to identify the concepts they represent: I and you.

Is you a personal pronoun?I is the most basic among first person pronouns, serving to identify the speaker. Its object form is me, also identifying the speaker but as an object of a verb or preposition rather than the subject. Now there is a common question out there, is you a personal pronoun? You, in both its singular and plural forms, identifies the person or people to whom the sentence is addressed. Its form does not change when it is used as an object. But before you think you can answer what are personal pronouns, there’s a little more than meets the eye.

These first person pronouns are set apart from the others in their categories because they are their own concepts; there is no other way to identify the persons to whom they refer.

Another case where you can act as a personal pronoun, but is used incorrectly, is when people often write and say between you and I. This phrase should be:

  • Between you and me…etc.

The reason for this is because the preposition, between, is usually followed by an objective personal pronoun (such as me, him, her, and us) as opposed to a subjective personal pronoun (such as I, he, she, and we).

When we study the question of what is a personal pronoun, we have to consider the concept of person. When we talk about person as a grammatical concept, we don’t just mean person in the sense of a living human being. Person refers to whether a part of speech is tailored to refer to the speaker, the addressee, or an outside being or object. Thus, personal pronouns exist. We’ll break these down below, and you can always use our essay checker to double-check your own writing.

First Steps First: First Person Pronouns

The concept of the first person in grammar is a way of indicating the speaker’s involvement in the sentence that is being narrated. I, we, and us are the first person pronouns, with I as the singular and we and us as the plural forms. I is a first person pronoun used when the narrator of the phrase is referring to themselves, and we or us refers back to a group of two or more that includes the speaker.

  • John, Mary, and I wanted to go to the movies, but we couldn’t agree on what to see.

In this sentence, we in the dependent clause refers back to John, Mary, and I earlier in the sentence. 

Reflexive verbs come into play and act as intensifiers to personal pronouns. An intensifier is an adverb that gives emphasis to a part of speech in a sentence or clause. In the case of reflexive verbs: myself, themselves, ourselves, her/himself, itself can enhance a personal pronoun such as the example below: 

  • Carrie goes shopping herself all the time.  

Herself refers back to Carrie which is the personal pronoun for her person. It enhances the fact that Carrie is capable of going shopping alone and can be used or replaced with other reflexive verbs, depending on the context.

First person pronouns can also be used to refer to possession in a sentence. With words like my and mine, yours and ours, a person can claim ownership or over another noun for the subject in the sentence. In this example:

  • Cameron said those dishes are ours.

Cameron and the speaker claim ownership over the dishes. The first person pronoun, ours, helps the speaker group both them and Cameron as the sole owners of those dishes.

As we’ve previously discussed, I is also a first person pronoun but does not replace anything. To know what is a personal pronoun covers more ground than you think. See this for even more details.

Just a Second!: Is You a Personal Pronoun?

The next category, as you might guess, is the second person. This category actually only consists of a single word: you, which is incredibly versatile in that it can be used as a subject or an object, and as a singular or plural noun. Is you a personal pronoun? Absolutely! You, like first person pronouns, do not have to replace anything but instead stands as its own concept. In general, you is used to indicate the noun (usually a person or people) being addressed by the narrator of the sentence. Let’s start with examples of the singular you.

  • You are one of the top candidates being considered for the promotion.
  • Sally, did Jane give the file to you?

In the first sentence, you, indicates that the speaker is talking directly to the person who is being considered for a promotion, and the inclusion of the phrase “one of the top candidates” gives us a context clue that the speaker is addressing one person, not several.

In the second sentence, you is the object of the preposition to and indicates to whom the files were supposed to be given. The speaker addresses the other person by name earlier in the sentence, so we can see that this is addressed to just one person. Let’s see how you works in a plural context.

  • Class! You have to pay attention, or you will not pass the test.
  • I’ll forward the email to you.

In the first sentence, the context makes it clear that you refers to the class as a whole, consisting of many people who need to pay attention. The second sentence is not as clear: you could be singular or plural, because there’s no context to make sense of it. Because this situation is very common, you will often see phrases such as you all(or you guys or y’all if you’re in an informal context) to clarify. Hence why the question, ‘is you a personal pronoun’ is a popular one.

Easy as 1, 2, 3: Personal Pronouns and the Third Person

The final category of personal pronouns is third person, and it’s the most exhaustive category: he, him, she, her, it, they, and them. With the exception of it, all of these pronouns have different forms for subject usage and object usage. Without these explanations, answering what are personal pronouns would be difficult. In general, a third person personal pronoun must have a clear antecedent in order to make sense.

  • She is reading a new book.

If this sentence stands alone, it makes no sense: who is she? It needs a preceding sentence that gives a proper name. If the sentence “Sara is on her lunch break” preceded the above sentence, then it would become clear that she is replacing Sara.

A quick note on a common question: while they and them are traditionally used as the third-person plural personal pronouns, they are increasingly used in colloquial English in a singular context when the gender is unknown. This is because it is generally considered incorrect to use to refer to a human being and referenced as a first person pronoun. The evolution of the singular they in becoming a first person pronoun is ongoing. Check the conventions of the style you’re using, whether it’s MLA format, APA format, or something else. You can read up on more styles on our site to ensure that your grammar and style is impeccable! Afterwards, take stock of what you learned so far and ask yourself what is a personal pronoun and see if you can make your own examples.

Summary: What is a personal Pronoun?

Below you will find some questions to help you practice your newfound information out. Check it over with a friend and reuse it as many times as you want.

Follow-up Questions:

  1. What are personal pronouns?
  2. List all that fall under what is a personal pronoun and first person pronouns that you know and make sentences out of them!
  3. Is you a personal pronoun?


Published March 6th, 2019. Updated April 30th, 2020.

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