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Special Problems in Pronoun Usage


Special Problems in Pronoun Usage

Learn the secrets of flawless pronoun usage and appositives with our comprehensive guide. Perfect for students, educators, and writers looking to enhance their grammar skills.


Ever found yourself stuck choosing between "who" and "whom," or "we" and "us"? Pronoun usage can be tricky, even for seasoned writers. This comprehensive guide is perfect for students, educators, and professional writers looking to refine their grammatical skills. Dive into the world of pronouns and appositives, and transform your writing from good to grammatically impeccable.


What is an appositive?

An appositive is a word or word group that is placed near a noun or a pronoun to identify or describe it.

What should be the case of the pronoun that is used as an appositive?

A pronoun used as an appositive should be in the same case as the word to which it refers.

  • My best friends, Chris and she, are applying to the same colleges. [The appositive she identifies the subject friends. It is in the nominative case.]


Special Problems in Pronoun Usage Tip

To decide which form of a pronoun to use as an appositive, substitute the pronoun for the word to which it refers. The pronoun that is correct in this position will also be correct as the appositive.

  • I helped my friends, Chris and (they, them), with their applications. [Which sounds correct? I helped they with their applications or I helped them with their applications? The correct form of the appositive is them.]
Sometimes the pronoun we or us is followed by an appositive.

  • We seniors are excited about college. [The subject We is followed by the appositive seniors.]


Special Problems in Pronoun Usage Tip

To decide whether to use we or us before an appositive, cross out the appositive. Whichever pronoun form is correct without the appositive will be correct with the appositive.

  • Which college is a good choice for (we, us) musicians? [Which sounds correct? Which college is a good choice for we or Which college is a good choice for us? The correct pronoun is us.]

Pronouns Used as Appositives Quiz


Who and Whom

The pronoun who is used as a subject of a verb or as a predicate nominative.
The pronoun whom is used as a direct object, an indirect object, or an object of a preposition.

  • Who wrote this note? [subject of the verb wrote
  • Whoever wrote this note should speak up. [subject of the subordinate clause Whoever wrote this note
  • Who was the author of this note? [predicate nominative identifying the subject author
  • To whom is the note addressed? [object of the preposition To] 
  • Give it to whomever you see first. [Whomever is a direct object in the subordinate clause whomever you see first.]


Special Problems in Pronoun Usage Tip

To decide whether to use who or whom in a subordinate clause, follow these steps:
(1) First, decide how the pronoun is used in the clause. Is the pronoun being used as a subject or predicate nominative, or is the pronoun being used as an object?
(2) Then, decide which case form is correct for this use. If the pronoun is being used as a subject or a predicate nominative, use who. If the pronoun is being used as an object, use whom

  • Joe DiMaggio, (who, whom) Marilyn Monroe married, played baseball. [In the subordinate clause, the pronoun is used as the direct object of the verb married. Marilyn Monroe married whom? Whom is in the objective case, so it is the correct pronoun.]

'Who' or 'Whom' Quiz

Choose the correct form of the pronoun in each of the following sentences.


Understanding the intricacies of pronoun usage and appositives can significantly elevate the quality of your writing. By mastering these rules, you'll ensure your sentences are not only grammatically correct but also clear and engaging. Whether you're a student, educator, or professional writer, these tips and tricks will help you navigate the complexities of pronouns with ease.


Q: When to use who or whom?

A: Use "who" when it is the subject of a verb, and "whom" when it is the object of a verb or preposition. "Who" is used for the nominative case (subject), e.g., "Who wrote this book?" "Whom" is used for the objective case (object), e.g., "To whom did you give the book?"

Q: How do you use whom in a sentence?

A: Use "whom" when it is the object of a verb or preposition in a sentence. For example: "Whom did you invite to the party?" (Object of the verb "invite") "The student with whom I spoke" (Object of the preposition "with")

Q: Who or whom should I contact?

A: The correct form to use is "Whom should I contact?" Here, "whom" is the object of the verb "should contact," so it takes the objective case form "whom."

Q: Who vs whom for a group?

A: When referring to a group of people, use: "Who" if the group is the subject of the verb, e.g., "Who are the members of the club?" "Whom" if the group is the object of a verb or preposition, e.g., "For whom is this message intended?" or "The team whom we support."

In general, if you can replace the who/whom with "they" (subject) or "them" (object), it will help determine the correct form.

Mr. ‏El-Sayed Ramadan ‎ ‎


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