Advanced Grammar for IELTS: Pronouns – Diagnose Test, Grammar Explanation & Practice Exercises
A DIAGNOSTIC TEST: Pronouns
Ten of these sentences contain mistakes. Tick (✓) the correct sentences, then find and correct the mistakes.
Someone he called in the middle of the night – I don’t know who it was.
==> …..Someone called in the middle of the night……
- We always wash up the dog’s dishes separately. This cloth is for our dishes and that one is for its.
- It’s not their deckchair. It’s our! Don’t you recognise it?
- E-mails they have become a real nuisance. I receive about thirty a day now.
- Those plastic cakes look good enough to eat them!
- The ski instructor didn’t actually ski any better than me.
- Don’t tell anyone else about the surprise party. It’s between you and I!
- Could all of you people move a few metres to the left, please?
- If you’d like a new tennis racket, I can get you a one very cheaply.
- It’s been an excellent course. I’ve enjoyed very much.
- Some elderly people have difficulty in remembering themselves what happened only a few hours before.
- Myself, I’m really not keen on savoury and sweet flavours together.
- After John had been in captivity for three years, he and his wife had a lot to tell themselves.
- They haven’t cleaned the stairwells in our fiats for over a month now.
- The refugees have arrived and everybody seem quite happy with the living arrangements.
In the following sentences, one, two or all three of the answers (a-c) may be correct. Tick (✓) all of the correct answers.
Each interviewee should arrive promptly for …….. interview.
a his ✓ b his/her ✓ c their ✓
- It’s …………..who asked for the music to be turned down.
a them b them ones c they
- Come on! Own up! Who’s left……… muddy boots in the kitchen again!
a their b his/her c her
- We had to take Damon to the vet yesterday. ……… ‘s got ear mites again.
a It b He c Himself
- I’d like to treat……….. to a night at the opera.
a you b yourself c myself
- The hostile tribes went to war with…………….
a one another b each other c themselves
- In cases like these………….. can understand the motive behind the attack.
a one b you c we
B GRAMMAR EXPLANATION: Pronouns
Pronouns are words which we substitute for nouns in order to avoid repetition. This unit explains how English uses subject and object pronouns, reflexive and reciprocal pronouns, and indefinite pronouns.
- PERSONAL PRONOUNS
We use personal pronouns to refer to both people and objects. (This unit also looks at possessive adjectives.)
After we mention a person or an object once, or if the context makes it clear who or what we are referring to, we usually use pronouns to refer to them.
We use subject pronouns instead of a noun as the subject of a verb:
Paul Allen plan to set up a rock music museum. He was a founder of Microsoft.
We use object pronouns instead of a noun as a direct or indirect object:
- Direct object: I met Julian yesterday. I like him, don’t you?
- Indirect object: Those books belong to Julian. Can you give them to him, please?
We use possessive adjectives before a noun to express ‘belonging’:
- Adjective: Did the neighbours leave that here? It looks like their deckchair.
We use possessive pronouns instead of a possessive adjective + noun:
- Pronoun: No, it’s not their deckchair. It’s ours! Don’t you recognise it?
1C. Omission/ inclusion of pronouns
English does not usually omit pronouns, especially subject pronouns:
We can expect carol singers; they often come at this time of year.
But it is incorrect to use a noun + pronoun together as the subject of a verb:
X E-mails they have become a real nuisance. ✓ E-mails have become a real nuisance
We do not use object pronouns in infinitive phrases or relative clauses if the object has already appeared in the same sentence:
X Those plastic cakes look good enough to eat them
✓ Those plastic cakes look good enough to eat.
X That’s the play I told you about it ✓ That’s the play I told you about.
1D. Subject and object pronouns
There are some cases where we can use either an object pronoun or a subject pronoun. After as and than in comparative patterns, we use the subject pronoun only in very formal English; the object pronoun is more common:
- Formal: The ski instructor didn’t ski any better than I.
- Informal: The instructor didn’t actually ski any better than me
After as and than, we can use a subject pronoun with an auxiliary or modal verb :
The ski instructor didn’t ski as well as I do/did/can.
We usually use the object pronoun in short responses: ‘Who’s there?’ ‘It’s us’
After It is we use the subject pronoun in formal language, the object in informal:
- Formal: It is they who asked for the music to be turned down.
- Informal: It’s them who asked for the music to be turned down.
When we have a noun and pronoun, or two pronouns together, we tend to put the speaker last (possibly out of politeness):
You and I are both invited to the pro-celebrity golf match, if you fancy it.
However, if we have a noun and pronoun where the pronoun does not refer to the speaker, we usually put the pronoun first:
Don’t you think we should let him and his wife decide when to come?
Note: We should use object pronouns after a preposition, although in informal English you may hear the subject pronoun:
X They’re sending the new consignment over for Tom and I to check.
✓ They’re sending the new consignment over for Tom and me to check.
1E. Modifying pronouns
In some exclamations we modify object pronouns, usually with an adjective:
Look what I’ve done! Silly me! Lucky old him/her.
We can use a noun after a pronoun to clarify who or what we are referring to:
I want you boys to report to the Head after this class!
Then she, Mrs Vincent, got up and asked everyone to leave at once.
1F. Uses of he, she and it
We use it to refer to animals, things, ideas, or actions, and not usually to people unless to refer to an unborn or young baby (if the sex is unknown):
Mary brought her new baby into the shop yesterday – it’s very cute.
We use it as an ’empty’ subject:
‘Who can that be at the door?’ It’s my neighbour. He often calls this late.’
It has been several years since sultry singer Sade was last in the spotlight.
We use he and she to refer to people and also to animals, especially domestic pets:
We had to take our dog. Damon, to the vet yesterday. He ‘s got ear mites.
The fact that English distinguishes gender with he, him, his and she, her, hers can cause difficulty in deciding which form to use after a subject or object not clearly of either gender. He, him or his used to be most common, but many people now object to this. Ways to avoid using he. him and his include the use of he/ she (him/her, his/her) in writing, or they (them, their) or plurals in speech or writing:
A doctor always makes decisions according to the best of his/ her/ their knowledge.
Doctors always make decisions according to the best of their knowledge.
We often use they (them, their) after indefinite pronouns:
‘Someone called you from Grant’s Garage.’ ‘Oh, did they leave their name?’
We use one or ones to avoid repeating countable nouns:
Do you prefer the dark chocolates or the light ones?
We do not use one to replace uncountable nouns:
X Do you prefer white rice or brown one? ✓ Do you prefer white rice or brown?
We can use one/ones after the and adjectives, but not immediately after a/ an:
X I’d like a loaf of bread. Can you pass me a one from the top shelf?
✓ I’d like a loaf of bread. Can you pass me one from the top shelf?
These are interesting fossil specimens. This is an amazing one.
We do not use one/ ones when we refer to an item that has previously been defined. Compare:
I need a drink, a large one. (= any drink)
Where’s my drink? Oh, there it is. (= my drink – a defined drink)
- REFLEXIVE AND RECIPROCAL PRONOUNS
2A. Reflexive pronouns
Reflexive pronouns are formed with self/ selves. We usually use reflexive pronouns when the subject and object are the same person or thing:
X Quick! The baby’s burnt her ✓ Quick! The baby’s burnt herself !
Ben treated him to an ice cream. (him = someone else, not Ben)
Ben treated himself to an ice cream. (himself = Ben)
After prepositions we use an object pronoun to refer to the subject when it is clear who or what it refers to; otherwise we use a reflexive pronoun. Compare:
Jim emerged from the underground station and looked around him (him = Jim)
Jane was upset. Alexa was really annoyed with her. (her = Jane)
Jane was upset. Alexa was really annoyed with herself. (herself = Alexa)
We use reflexive pronouns to refer to the subject after verbs with dependent prepositions.
Politicians have to believe in themselves if they expect the people to believe in them.
(We use them here as the subject of to believe in them is the people and not politicians.)
We can use either the object pronoun or the reflexive to refer to the subject after as (for), like, but (for) and except (for):
Howard made sure that everyone except him/himself had a drink, as he was driving.
2B. Idiomatic use of reflexive pronouns
Some verbs take the reflexive in English where it may not seem logical, and where similar verbs in other languages may not take the reflexive, e.g. enjoy yourself, help yourself, acquaint yourself (with), behave yourself:
Did the children behave themselves while we were out? (= behave well)
Help yourself to the food, won’t you? (= take as much food as you want)
The phrase by yourself/ himself. etc. means ‘alone’ or ‘without help’:
We’ve decided to go on holiday by ourselves next year.
Note: There are many verbs which take a reflexive in other languages but do not usually do so in English, e.g. wash, dress, feel, remember, hurry:
X I don’t feel myself very well today. ✓ I don t feel very well today.
2C. Emphatic use of reflexive pronouns
We can use reflexive pronouns to emphasise the subject or object of a sentence. The pronoun can come after the subject, after the auxiliary (if there is one) or verb, after the object or at the end of the sentence:
I have used this technique on a number of occasions.
We can use the reflexive pronoun either at the beginning or the end of a sentence and separated by a comma to mean ‘as far as I’m concerned’:
Myself. I don’t like the new fashion for flared trousers.
I don’t like the new fashion for flared trousers, myself.
We use (all) (by) myself/ yourself, etc. to emphasise ‘without any help’ or ‘completely alone’:
The garden looks amazing. Did you do it (all) (by) yourself?
2D. Reciprocal pronouns
Compare the use of reciprocal pronouns (each other/ one another) and reflexive pronouns:
Steve and Elaine blamed only themselves for the break-up of their marriage. (They both blamed the two of them and nobody else.)
Steve and Elaine blamed each other for the break-up of their marriage. (Steve blamed Elaine and Elaine blamed Steve.)
Each other usually refers to two subjects, one another to more than two, though we tend to use the two forms interchangeably in informal English:
He spoke fast and his words tumbled out. tripping over each other/ one another.
Note: Don’t use a reflexive or an object pronoun where a reciprocal pronoun is needed:
X So, we’ll see ourselves/ us at the fountain at half past one tomorrow.
✓ So, we’ll see each other at the fountain at half past one tomorrow.
- ‘IMPERSONAL’ PRONOUNS
3A. you, we, they
When we wish to express general feelings and opinions (i.e. not necessarily those of the speaker), we can use you, we or they:
You can wear whatever you like to go to the theatre these days.
If we wish to include ourselves, it is better to use we:
We can wear whatever we like to go to the theatre these days.
If we wish to exclude ourselves, it is better to use they:
They behave really badly at football matches nowadays.
We also use they to refer to people in authority:
Did you know they ‘ve put the parking charges up again?
We use one in formal language to mean people generally including ourselves:
One can sympathise with the sentiments behind the actions of the strikers.
We can use one as a subject or object pronoun, and as a reflexive pronoun:
One tends to learn to fend for oneself if one lives alone.
Note: The use of one to mean ‘I’ is considered unnecessarily formal:
One would like to attend the ceremony, but one is too busy.
Note: US English rarely use ‘one’, but prefers ‘you’.
- INDEFINITE PRONOUNS AND ADVERBS
4A. Form and use
|someone / body 1
no one/ body 3
Any, some, every and no combine with nouns or adverbs to form pronouns (or adverbs):
1 We use -one and -body interchangeably.
2 anyhow is informal and is similar to anyway: Anyhow, as I was saying …
3 We usually write no one as two words, we write nobody as one word.
These pronouns and adverbs do not refer to a specific person, place, etc.:
They were miles from anywhere – no one would hear her scream.
We use some compounds when we are thinking of a particular unspecified person, place or thing, but we use any compounds when we are thinking of people, places or things in general:
‘What would you like for your birthday?’
‘Oh, anything ‘ (= no particular present)
‘Well, there’s something I would like …’ (= a particular present)
Note: Any + one/ thing/ where is not negative:
Anyone would hear her scream. (= any people in the area)
We use any + one/ thing/ where with the meaning it doesn’t matter who/what/where :
‘Where shall I sign the card?’ Oh, anywhere you like. ’
If we use these pronouns and adverbs as subjects, they take a singular verb:
Everything is going smoothly and NASA expects to launch the shuttle as scheduled.
We can use these pronouns with modifiers, e.g. adjectives or else:
Tony decided to do something active about his problems.
Something else you become aware of all over the Basque country is the bracken.
Also check :
C PRACTICE EXERCISE
Read the article below and replace the underlined words with a suitable pronoun or possessive adjective. The first one is given as an example (0).
Bernard Warner is a fishmonger. Mr Warner sells fish – lots of (0) fish….it – and (1) Mr Warner……. sometimes sells lobsters. When the lobster arrived in his shop, (2) the lobster ………. didn’t strike (3) Mr Warner ……as being particularly odd. (4) The lobster ……was a little paler than most others of (5) the lobster’s …….species, but perhaps it was just a bit old. Mr Warner left his shop to go on holiday as planned. (6) Mr Warner’s shop ……was a family shop and he knew (7) the shop…….was in good hands.
En route to Majorca, Mr Warner picked up the in-flight magazine. (8) The magazine …….fell open at an article about albino lobsters. These very rare lobsters are just paler versions of a normal lobster. (9) Albino lobsters …….are also very valuable: (10) an albino lobster …….. caught off the American coast was sold for £ 15,000; another, bigger (11) albino lobster………was insured for £20.000.
As soon as he reached his destination, Mr Warner raced to a phone. ‘Don t sell that lobster!’ he told his family firm. But it was too late. (12) The lobster ……….had already been sold. Mr Warner couldn’t believe his bad luck. A diner somewhere had eaten the prize catch and (13) the diner …….had had no idea at all of (14) the animal’s………….value. After 40 years as a fishmonger (15) Mr Warner ………had thought that no one knew the business better than (16) Mr Warner …….but he had never come across (17) an example ……of those lobsters before! Mr Warner said that he now knows what it’s like when a person wins the lottery only to realise that (18) that person………have thrown away the ticket!
Rewrite all of the underlined phrases in this dialogue to correct the mistakes with the pronouns. Some of the underlined pronouns are grammatically incorrect; others may be considered too formal or old-fashioned. In some cases you will just need to change the order of the pronouns. The first one is given as an example (0).
MILES 352 87641. Hello.
PHOEBE Hi. Miles. (0) It is I. Phoebe. ==> It’s me
MILES Hi, Phoebe, how are things?
PHOEBE Not too bad. (1) Me and Justin have had colds, but we’ve still been going in, (2) a teacher can’t desert his class!
MILES You should take time off, you know. (3) One can’t carry on working if one isn’t feeling well.
PHOEBE I know what you mean, but (4) it’s we teachers who always get the blame if the kids don’t learn enough and fail their exams, so (5) one can’t take too much time off. Talking of colds, have you had (6) a one this year yet?
MILES NO, I think (7) I and Jennv have been really lucky so far.
PHOEBE Yes, you have. Listen, Miles, I’m actually phoning to find out if (8) Jenny and you would be interested in joining the amateur operatic society in the village (9) with Justin and I.
MILES You’re joking, aren’t you? You know that you and Justin sing much (10) better than we. and anyway, Jenny thinks the society is really snobbish, so she won’t be interested.
PHOEBE Perhaps (11) one does get a lot of middle-class people there, but they’re always friendly. (12) If anyone new comes in, he’s always made welcome.
MILES I don’t know … when is it, anyway?
PHOEBE The season starts on Thursday evening.
MILES Oh, we can’t come then. Our dog Samson is having a minor operation that day and (13) we want to be with it in the evening in case the anaesthetic hasn’t worn off properly.
PHOEBE Oh, (14) poor old he! I hope it goes OK. and I quite understand. (15) One can’t be too careful with animals. OK, let’s get together another time then. I’ll give you a buzz soon.
In each pair of sentences below, one or both sentences are correct. Tick (✓) the correct sentences and cross (X) the Incorrect ones. Where both sentences are correct, choose an explanation from the box for the difference between them. You can use the explanations more than once.
|A The pronouns refer to different people.
B There is no difference in meaning at all.
C The difference is one of emphasis.
D One sentence is more formal or more dated than the other.
a You can get tickets for the whole of the city transport network here. ✓
b One can get tickets for the whole of the city transport network here. ✓ D
a Alicia and Charles blamed themselves for the break-up of their marriage.
b Alicia and Charles blamed each other for the break-up of their marriage.
a Ewan is thinking of bringing some work with him.
b Ewan is thinking of bringing some work with himself.
a We all give each other small presents at the Christmas party.
b We all give one another small presents at the Christmas party.
a Ouch! That radiator is really hot. I’ve burnt myself!
b Ouch! That radiator is really hot. I’ve burnt me!
a We’re going to miss the bus. Quick, let’s hurry ourselves!
b We’re going to miss the bus. Quick, let’s hurry!
a The paint effect you’ve used on the wall is great. Did you do it yourselves?
b The paint effect you’ve used on the wall is great. Did you do it by yourselves?
a Will we be able to find each other amongst all the people at the concert hall?
b Will we be able to find ourselves amongst all the people at the concert hall?
a The girl’s coach rebuked herself for missing some very easy shots.
b The girl’s coach rebuked her for missing some very easy shots.
a I thought the Government supported GM food. Didn’t the PM say that?
b I thought the Government supported GM food. Didn’t the PM say that himself?
a Most people find this style of art depressing. As for me, I think it’s stimulating!
b Most people find this style of art depressing. As for myself, I think it’s stimulating!
Underline the correct alternative in bold in these sentences. In two sentences both alternatives are acceptable; in these sentences, underline both of them.
- You can’t have lost the tickets. They’ve got to be anywhere / somewhere !
- I haven’t got a clue where I am! Isn’t there anyone/ no one here who could direct me to the Stakis Hotel?
- Is/Are everyone here now? We’ll start the tour straight away then.
- There is hardly anybody /nobody to be seen on the streets of the centre after dusk.
- Peter decided that he needed to do constructive something /something constructive with his life.
- The kidnap victims were blindfolded, driven into the country and thrown from the car miles from somewhere / anywhere.
- It is essential that we locate someone/ somebody who can repair this machine within the next 48 hours.
- The mayor is caught in the city traffic. We’ve somehow / anyhow got to find a way to get her here fast.
- ‘What would you like to drink?’ ‘Oh, something/ anything. Whatever you’re having will be fine.’
- That new chess champion from the Ukraine is amazing. Anyone/No one can beat him!
- Anyhow/ Anyway, I must be going now. I’ve got lots to do this morning.
- The ball can bounce anywhere/somewhere between the inner tramlines, but if it bounces outside them, you lose the point.
Read this extract from a book and complete it with a suitable pronoun or possessive adjective which best fits each space. In the book the author, an American, describes his first visit to England.
It must be said that Dover was not vastly improved by daylight, but I liked (1)……… I liked (2)………small scale and cosy air, and the way everyone said ‘Good morning’, and ‘Hello’, and ‘Dreadful weather – but it must brighten up’, to (3 ………. and the sense that this was just (4)……… more in a very long series of fundamentally cheerful, well-ordered, pleasantly uneventful days. (5) …………in the whole of Dover would have any particular reasons to remember 21 March 1973, except for (6)……… and a handful of children born that day.
I didn’t know how early (7)….. could decently begin asking for a room in England, so I thought (8)………..would leave (9)…………. till mid-morning. With time on (10)…………hands, I made a thorough search for a guesthouse that looked attractive and quiet, but friendly and not too expensive, and at the stroke of ten o’clock presented (11)……….on the doorstep of the (12)……… I had carefully selected, taking care not to discompose the milk bottles. (13)…. was a small hotel that was really a guesthouse, indeed, was really a boarding-house.
I don’t remember (14)……. name, but I well recall the proprietress, who showed (15)……….. to a room, then gave (16)………………………………….. a tour of the facilities and outlined the many complicated rules for residing there. This was all bewilderingly new to me. Where I came from, (17)……… got a room in a motel, spent ten hours making a lavish and possibly irredeemable mess of (18)…………, and left early the next morning. This was like joining the army.
Read the article below. Some of the lines are correct (examples 0 and 000), some have a wrong word that must be replaced (example 00) and some have an unnecessary word (example 0000). If a line is correct, tick (✓) it. If a word must be replaced or omitted, underline it and write its replacement if necessary at the end of the line. There are four examples at the beginning (0, 00, 000 and 0000).
0 In Manchester, UK, twelve-year-old Andrew and his friends kick a ball to ✓
00 themselves after school every day. It is Andrew’s ambition to play football each other
000 for Manchester United. In Pakistan, Asma, also twelve, stitches the balls that ✓
0000 Andrew and his friends play with them. It is Asma’s ambition to become a –
1 teacher. That ambition is as unattainable for her as is Andrew’s for them.
2 In recent years the use of child labour in producing footballs has become
3 an issue which it fuels public indignation. About 80 per cent of match-grade
4 footballs are produced in Pakistan, many of their by children. But is this
5 necessarily a bad thing? Work can be a way for children to gain skills and
6 increase them choices. Many families in Pakistan are extremely poor; they
7 need to find money everyhow and many children have to work. Stitching
8 footballs is safe, easy work, which it can be done at home, fitted around the
9 child’s schooling. Anyone wants the children in Pakistan to go to school
10 more than them do. But, as one child says, ‘If we are to go to school instead
11 of work, one must give us money’.
12 At a conference organised to address the problem of children having to
13 work, children theirselves were asked to give opinions. A girl from Peru
14 commented, ‘Anybody must get together to fight the real problem – poverty
15 – not working children.’ Children at the conference felt that they herself
16 should be consulted, as adult decisions are often wrong for them. For
17 example, many Bangladeshi children they suffered in the mid-1990s when a
18 US Bill threatened to ban imports made by it: clothing manufacturers in
19 Bangladesh sacked all children under fourteen, and many of themselves were
20 forced to take less well-paid, more harmful work, including prostitution.
D ANSWER KEY FOR DIAGNOSTIC TEST
1 its => the dog’s (dishes)
2 our! => ours!
3 E-mails-they have become => E-mails have become
4 to-eat- them => to eat
6 you and I => you and me
8 a-one => one
9 I’ve enjoyed very much => I’ve enjoyed it/myself very much.
10 in remembering themselves what => in remembering what
12 themselves => each other
14 seem => seems
15 a ✓ b X c ✓
16 a ✓ b X (too formal) c ✓ (but only if the household is mainly female)
17 a ✓ (but unlikely if the speaker is the pet owner) b ✓ c X
19 a ✓ b ✓ c X
20 a ✓ b ✓ c ✓
E ANSWER KEY FOR PRACTICE EXERCISE
16 him/he/he did
1 Justin and I
2 teachers can’t desert their class/a teacher can’t desert their class
3 You can’t carry on working if you aren’t feeling well
4 it’s us teachers
5 we/you can’t take too much time off
7 Jenny and I
8 you and Jenny
9 with Justin and me
10 better than us/we do
11 we/you do get
12 If anyone new comes in they’re always made welcome
13 we want to be with him in the evening
14 poor old him
15 You can’t be too careful with animals
1 a ✓ b ✓ A
2 a ✓ b X
3 a ✓ b ✓ B
4 a ✓ b X
5 a X b ✓
6 a ✓ b ✓ B
7 a ✓ b X
8 a ✓ b ✓ A
9 a ✓ b ✓ C
10 a ✓ b ✓ B
5 something constructive
10 No one
11 Anyhow/ Anyway
3 each other/one another/ everyone/ body else
5 No one/Nobody
6 me/ myself
|7 one/ you
1 them => him
3 which it fuels => which fuels
4 theif => them
6 them => their
7 every how => somehow
8 which it can => which can
9 Anyone => No one
10 them => they
11 one => someone/ they
13 theirselves => themselves
14 Anybody => Everybody
15 herself => themselves
17 children-they suffered => children suffered
18 it => them
19 themselves => them