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Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Pronouns used to replace nouns and noun phrases

Once children learn to chain a few sentences together to create a piece of writing, it is important for them to understand that they don’t have to repeat the same nouns and noun phrases in every sentence.  If you read the following examples, you can see how repetition interferes with the flow of reading, but replacing some of the nouns and noun phrases with pronouns makes the text easier for the reader to understand.
  • Jack went to town and Jack took the cow to sell at the market.  When Jack got to town, Jack looked for a buyer but Jack could not find a buyer.  Jack was getting worried but then an old lady gave Jack some magic beans for the cow.  When Jack got home, Jack’s mother was very cross with Jack and Jack’s mother threw the beans out of the window.
  • Jack went to town and he took the cow to sell at the market.  When he got to town, Jack looked for a buyer but he could not find one.  Jack was getting worried but then an old lady gave him some magic beans for the cow.  When he got home, Jack’s mother was very cross with him and she threw the beans out of the window.
When pronouns refer to a person, we call them personal pronouns.  Children need to understand that we use different personal pronouns in different sentence slots:  we need subject pronouns in the subject position of a sentence and object pronouns in the object slots.

Subject pronouns                    Object pronouns
(use in the subject position        (use in the object position
before the verb)                         after the verb)
I                                                 me
he                                              him
she                                            her
it                                                it
you                                            you
we                                             us
they                                           them

For example,
  • He saw her.
  • I saw them.
  • She saw me.
  • My family and I saw them. 

Children will sometimes confuse these pronouns, which is incorrect in Standard English and will be marked incorrectly in the grammar and punctuation test:
  • Me and my family saw them.  (Incorrect as object pronoun me used in the subject position.)
  • She saw my family and I.  (Incorrect as subject pronoun I used in the object position.)
These sorts of mistakes usually happen when ‘I’ or ‘me’ is used with another subject or object.  For example, children will rarely say ‘Me saw them.’ or ‘She saw I.’ and will recognise these structures as wrong since they sound strange.  However, when another subject or object is added, the strangeness is not as apparent.  Many adults also make these mistakes and incorrect use is often heard in the media, so it is difficult for children to distinguish correct Standard English.

There are other types of pronouns, but the subject and object pronouns are the first that will need to be taught.

Activity: Take Tibbles Out: using subject and object pronouns correctly