Grammar Tips for Indie Authors: Personal and Reflexive Pronouns

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One of the perks that Rave Reviews Book Club offers is a mentorship program for its author members or aspiring authors who have a work in progress that has not yet been published. Because I am mentoring writers not associated with the club, I don’t have time at present to mentor a writer through the club. Instead, as my contribution to the mentoring program at Rave Reviews and to all who stop by to read my blog, I will post simple grammatical lessons from time to time with tips to avoid common grammatical pitfalls. My experience as a writer and editor includes the mentorship I received at Random House, the guidance I received from those senior to me as I wrote and edited within the public health consulting industry, the wonderful teachers I had as a student, as well as the students to whom I taught English at the junior and senior high school levels, who made me think about how to instruct them in a non-threatening way.

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  1. Personal Pronouns: Little Words Commonly Used Incorrectly

Subject Pronouns (Nominative Case)

Singular                    Plural

I                                         we

you                                   you

he, she, it                       they

Object Pronouns (Objective Case)

Singular                     Plural

me                                     us

you                                  you

him                                 them

her

it                                                                                                                                                                                

Tip #1:  Use subject pronouns in the subject part of a sentence. Use object pronouns in the object part of a sentence (direct or indirect) and as the object of a preposition, as follows:

James (subject) found (verb) the purse (object). He (subject pronoun substituting for James) found (verb) it (object pronoun substituting for “purse”).

Robert (subject) hit (verb) the ball (object). He (subject pronoun substituting for “Robert”) hit (verb) it (object pronoun substituting for “ball”).

Rose (subject) sent (verb) Mary (indirect object) a letter (direct object). She (subject pronoun) sent (verb) her (indirect object) it (object pronoun). A little stilted. Better: She sent it to her.

Esther and I (compound subject) played (verb) tennis (object). We (subject pronoun substituting for “Esther and I”) played (verb) tennis (object).

Larry (subject) threw (verb) a fast ball (direct object) to the batter (object of preposition). He (subject pronoun) threw (verb) it (object pronoun) to him (object of preposition).

Simple, right? How about this next sentence?  The hostess greeted my wife and (me or I?) at the door.

If you selected “I,” you would have fallen into one of the most common grammatical pitfalls.Why? “I” is a subject pronoun, and only an object pronoun can appear in the direct object of a sentence. The correct choice is “me.” The sentence thus reads:  The hostess greeted my wife and me at the door.

Tip#2: Don’t fall into the pitfall of choosing a pronoun that sounds more “elegant” in a compound construction. Remember that like goes with like, that is, subject pronouns are used in the subject part of a sentence, and object pronouns appear in the direct object, indirect object, or object of a preposition.

Got that? How about this next sentence?  Henry and (me or I?) drove three of the boys to the field.

If you selected “me,” you get the buzzer for incorrect choice. Why? “Me” is an object pronoun, and only a subject pronoun can appear in the subject of a sentence. The correct choice is “I.” The sentence now reads: Henry and I drove three of the boys to the field.

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  1. Reflexive Pronouns: Words That Never Stand Alone Except in Dialogue

Myself (with “I”)                                              Ourselves (with “We”)

Yourself (with “You”)                             Yourselves (with “You” plural)

Himself, Herself, Itself                                   Themselves (with “Them”)

(with “He,” “She,” “It”)

I found myself thinking of her. I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. He thought himself king of the world. We deluded ourselves. In each case, a reflexive pronoun appears with its subject pronoun.

Grammar decisions become more complicated when compound constructions are used. Consider this sentence:  My daughter and (myself or I?) will go to the baby shower.

If you chose “myself,” you chose incorrectly. “Myself” needs “I” as a companion in a sentence. The correct choice is “I.” The sentence correctly reads:  My daughter and I will go to the baby shower.

Tip#3:  Reflexive pronouns never appear without their corresponding personal pronoun.

Using personal or reflexive pronouns correctly will not necessarily win you readers. However, proficiency in one’s native language has been among the hallmarks of critically acclaimed authors. Nevertheless, even best-selling authors have editors, copyeditors, and proofreaders. Strive to be professional in your approach to writing. Have a professional copyeditor read your manuscript before it is published. Make sure that your writing can always pass the pronouns grammar test!

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About jsherwin2013

Jennie has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in counseling. She is the author of Intentional Healing: One Woman’s Path to Higher Consciousness and Freedom from Environmental and Other Chronic Illnesses and is a contributing writer to Conscious Life News. She has been a teacher of English on the junior high school and senior high school levels, as well as a writer and editor in the field of public health. She has mentored writers and editors. She is certified in Reiki I and II and has studied energy therapies at A Healing Place in Richardson, Texas, working under the direction of Deborah Singleton and her healing team. Jennie also acknowledges the guidance of Christine Gregg, Australian spirit reader and healer, and Maya Page, intuitive healer, Reiki Master, and VortexHealing® practitioner, now retired. Jennie lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with her husband, Roger, a retired physician and epidemiologist. They provide editorial services to university researchers in the fields of medicine and public health. Her son, Colin, lives and works in New York City with his wife, Colleen.

2 responses to “Grammar Tips for Indie Authors: Personal and Reflexive Pronouns”

  1. Susi Lippuner says :

    http://www.bonafidebooks.com/melissa-lanitis-gregory-poetry/

    HI Jennie,

    I don’t know if you are still writing poetry and have a submission for this? Or perhaps you would like to share it with your group?

    Love, Susi

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