Huzzah! The rules surrounding cases of pronouns are one area wherein English is actually easier than other languages. Doesn’t happen very often, so we might want to take a moment in deference to the great grammar gods of the English language for giving us this break. So let’s get right to it. First of all, what is a “case” in grammar and how does it relate to pronouns?
What Is a Case In Grammar?
Actually, case relates to both nouns and pronouns. Case is a way of describing the function that a noun or pronoun has within a sentence. In other words, is the noun the subject of the sentence? Is the pronoun the object of the sentence, or does it show possession?
These simple questions will tell you which case your pronoun is in. These cases relate to both nouns and pronouns, with one difference: Nouns do not change form in English when their case changes.
In English, we have three cases for pronouns and nouns. That’s it! That is all we have to worry about. And the explanations are relatively self-explanatory.
- Subjective case: When the noun or pronoun is the subject of the sentence. Or, put another way, it is what the sentence is about.
- Objective case: When the noun or pronoun is the object of the sentence. It can be the direct or indirect object.
- Possessive case: When the noun or pronoun is used to indicate possession.
Cases and Nouns
Today we will focus on the cases of pronouns, but for that we need to start with nouns. “Why?” you may ask. I’ll explain by using an easy example.
The child rode his bike to the store.
The child is clearly the subject of the sentence. It is a noun, whose case is subjective because it is the subject of the sentence. The funny thing about nouns is they don’t change form as they change case. Think about this:
The bike carried the child to the store.
Here, child is in the objective case, as it is the object of the prepositional phrase “carried the child.” Notice – child has not altered its form. It is still the same word and has not changed a bit as we went from subjective case (in the first example) to objective case (in the second example above).
Another example of how nouns do not change:
Subjective case: The duck swam towards the shore.
Objective case: The alligator in the pond began to attack the duck.
Possessive case: The duck’s feathers were wet.
This is not true in all languages. So we catch a little break here.
Cases of Pronouns
But pronouns do change! The words we use change depending on whether we are using the pronoun in the subjective, objective, or possessive case in the sentence.
Possessive: my, mine
Possessive: your, yours
Subjective: he, she, it
Objective: him, her, it
Possessive: his, her, hers, its
Possessive: our, ours
Possessive: your, yours
Possessive: their, theirs
Hopefully we have helped to unstick your wicket! For more information on cases of pronouns, check out our Professional Writing video lessons, and please feel free to comment or ask questions below.