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How to Teach Pronouns and Other Pronoun Tips

English can be a tricky language, especially when one considers pronouns. Pronouns take the place of nouns and keep writers and speakers from being repetitive. Without them, we (all the people in the world) would sound verbose. How to teach them can be tricky for teachers. So lets offer you some tips.

Teaching pronouns takes a little planning and a lot of catering to your students. A mixture of formal lessons, games and consolidation activities will be the best approach when teaching pronouns, but it is strongly advised to make these suitable for both the age and ability of the students you teach.

“Charles is my best friend. He went to the store to get himself a new coat. His mother gave him money for his birthday.”

This paragraph would become “Charles is Anna’s best friend. Charles went to the store to get Charles a new coat. Charles’s mother gave Charles money for Charles’s birthday.” It’s cumbersome and confusing to speak or write that way.

However as useful as they are pronouns can also be confusing if not handled correctly. So here is some information on the types of pronouns in English which we folow with some tips / resources on how to introduce them to your children and students. ?

We have an infographic on the types of nouns in English for you to use and share if you need as well. ( just credit us please!)

_Types of Nouns Infographic

Types of Pronouns

The first thing children have to learn is the types of pronouns. Pronouns can take the place of many nouns, and how they are used matters. Let’s look at some of the types of pronouns. There are many others, but these are some of the first that are taught followed by some that even we had to look up as well! ( we have tried to put them in

Personal Pronoun Example

1) What are Personal Pronouns

These are probably the easiest pronouns to understand. Personal pronouns are either the subject or rename the subject. Refer to the sentences above. Charles was the topic of the sentences, and the second sentence begins with “he”. In this case, he refers to Charles.

These pronouns refer to the person making the statement and also to the person or thing that is being referred to in the sentence. They are the most common and usually the first introduced to students.

Personal Pronoun Examples And Usage
Personal PronounsUse in Sentences
I I can tie my shoes
youYou can do it!
SheShe is great
HeHe jumped from the plane
WeWe went to the movies
ItIt was scary
HimThe dog looked at him
Herthe bus went past her.
TheyThey went to the shops
UsWait for us!

Personal Pronoun Placement

Personal pronouns change depending on whether they are the subject or object of the sentence. A subject pronoun will be I, we, it, they, he, and she. The object pronouns are me, us, him, her, it, and them. These pronouns are used to refer to similar items with different functions in a sentence. Though as these are introduced early it is perhaps better to address those uses later.

2) What are Reflexive Pronouns

These pronouns refer back to the subject of the sentence. In the case of the sentence above, when Charles buys himself a new coat, himself is the reflexive pronoun. These pronouns usually end in self. Himself, myself, yourself, and ourselves are all reflexive. They are also more formal.

They are two words that refer back to another word in the sentence. The most common type of reflexive pronoun is a possessive pronoun used in combination with “myself” or “ourselves.”
Reflexive pronouns are very easy to use but difficult to master.

It is important to remember the following: when someone does something for themselves, you need to use the reflexive pronoun; when they do it for someone else, you need to use the object pronoun instead.

Reflexive Pronoun Examples and Usage.
Reflexive PronounsUse in Sentences
MyselfI can tie my shoes by myself
OurselvesWe are going by ourselves
ThemselvesThey helped themselves to the cake
HimselfHe blamed himself for the mistake
HerselfShe brushed her hair by herself.

3) Relative Pronouns

These pronouns begin a phrase relating to the noun. They include that, which, and who. Students who make good grades get into good colleges. “Who make good grades” refers to the students. It clarifies who the students are.

Example: The student, who I thought was smart, did badly on the test. As you can see, the relative pronoun in this sentence is “who” which refers to the word “student” in the first clause of the sentence.
Some common pronouns used are who/whom, whom/whoever, that/which and where. Their meanings are pretty straightforward or can be deduced from context or situation.

Relative Pronoun Examples and Usage.
Relative PronounsUse in Sentences
whoThe band who sang this song is from Australia.
whichJohn went to the woods with his dog, which likes to run in the trees
thatThe kayak that I bought has pedals

4) Possessive Pronouns

These are probably the hardest pronouns to get straight. Possessive pronouns are often confused for contractions. Nouns require apostrophe s to become possessive. However, possessive pronouns should never have an apostrophe. If there is an apostrophe, it is a contraction. Yours, mine, ours, his, hers, theirs, and its are all possessive pronouns.

They are for ownership, relationships, and emphasis.
It is important to note that possessive pronouns may be classified as either subjective or objective. Subjective pronouns indicate possession of something. Objective pronouns indicate a relationship between two parties – one who possesses something and one who something belongs to.

Possessive Pronoun Examples and Usage.

Possessive PronounsUse in Sentences
MineThe hat is mine.
HisHis car is blue
TheirsThe bag is theirs
OursThe cat is ours

5) Reciprocal Pronouns

These are words that use their own pronoun as a suffix and often follow a reciprocal verb. They can be singular or plural but only one person or thing must be involved in the reciprocal action for reciprocals to apply.

They are used to show that two subjects are doing a specific action in conjunction.
grammatically speaking, they are also known as reciprocals and it is an adjective that the subject uses to describe themselves.

They are commonly used to make a sentence sound more persuasive. Reciprocal Pronouns are usually found in formal speech and writing. when a speaker uses this type of pronoun, the effect of the words carries more weight and can seem much more convincing than if they were not used at all..

Reciprocal Pronoun Examples and Usage.
Reciprocal PronounsUse in Sentences
each otherMy Mum and Dad love each other
one anotherThe students helped one another finish the project.

6) Demonstrative Pronouns

5) Demonstrative: this pronoun is used to point out something or someone, can be singular or plural, and can refer to either person or thing. They are two words that emphasize or point out nouns or pronouns. They are often in the form “this”, “these” and “those”. These words can take the place of a noun or pronoun when you want to point them out in your writing.

Demonstrative Pronoun Examples and Usage.
Demonstrative PronounsUse in Sentences
thisThis is a dog
theseThese are red apples
thoseThose are green apples

7) Interrogative Pronouns

Interrogative: This pronoun’s purpose is to ask questions and are normally used in the form of who, whom, what, which, and whose.

They are pronouns that ask a question. As the name suggests, these pronouns can be used to ask questions.

Interrogative Pronoun Examples and Usage.
Interrogative PronounsUse in Sentences
whoWho are you?
whatWhat time is it?
whichWhich one in your house?
whoseWhose is this coat?

8) Indefinite Pronouns

They are pronouns that do not refer to a specific person, place or thing. Indefinite pronouns are extremely useful for students because they allow sentences to sound less formal but still be grammatically correct. Some of the most common types of indefinite pronouns are “everyone,” “anyone” and “none.”

The main purpose of indefinite pronouns is to describe a concept that can vary from one person or thing to another.

Indefinite Pronoun Examples and Usage.
Indefinite PronounsUse in Sentences
allAll of them are asleep
anyoneHas anyone seen my phone?
everyoneIs everyone ready to go?
someoneI think someone is listening
eithereither one is fine
noneNone of the class was listening

9) Possessive Adjectives

Possessive adjectives: These pronouns are similar to possessive pronouns except for the fact that they are adjectives instead of pronouns. Possessive Adjectives are used to show ownership. This means that they are adjectives that correspond with a pronoun in order to imply ownership.

It is important to note that possessive nouns take on the apostrophe and “s” while possessive adjectives do not change at all. They will always be in the same form because they are adjectives, not nouns. An example of a Possessive Adjective is “my dad’s knife.” This means that the knife belongs to my dad. When the word “Dad” is written in front of the Possessive Adjective, it becomes a possessive noun that describes him.

Another example of a Possessive Adjective in a sentence is “I have a question about my math test.”
The subject is “I”, the object is “my question”, and the possessive adjective in both of these examples is “my.” Also, please notice that it does not have to always be just one word – it can sometimes be two or more.

What is the difference between a possessive adjective and a possessive pronoun?
A main difference is that possessive pronouns can stand alone while possessive adjectives cannot. There are some minor differences as well such as the fact that a possessive adjective will not change when preceded by an article (the or a) while a possessive pronoun will do so to show ownership.

Examples of reflexive pronouns include “I,” myself and “we,” ourselves. Both of these are used before verbs to help describe one or more people performing the actions themselves.

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Challenges with how to Teach Pronouns

Some pronouns are very challenging for students. Remembering subject and object pronouns, first, second-, third-person personal pronouns, and contractions versus possessive are not easy. Couple that with the fact that many pronouns are also homophones, and pronouns are extremely difficult.

Pronouns and their uses are very confusing for students. They often get confused when using pronouns to refer to themselves and when using a possessive pronoun correctly.

Personal Pronoun Example

How Do We Teach Pronouns?

Teaching styles vary by teacher, but there are some fun things you can do to teach children how to remember pronouns. Here are a few tips.

Look for Clues in the Words

This tip may seem strange. I will explain it as best I can, but drawing it often works better. Let’s start with the homophone group there, their, and they’re. Each of these words contains a pronoun. Each pronoun means something different, but their meanings can be found within the words.

There- This word contains the word here. Here and there are both words that determine space. There may also be a place holder, so the word is always related to a place.

Their- This word contains the word heir. For young students, you might need to explain what an heir is. An heir is someone who will inherit money or objects. They have a lot of possessions. Their is possessive.

They’re- Finally, this word contains an apostrophe and the letters re. If we remember that possessive pronouns do not have apostrophes, we know this must be a contraction. They’re is the contraction, meaning they are.

Your and You’re work in a similar way that There and They’re work.

Your– Our can be found in this word. Our is possessive meaning belonging to us. Your is possessive, meaning belonging to you.

You’re– Just as They’re is a contraction, you’re is also a contraction. This word is made from the words you and are.

The first time I told this to an adult student, she said, “Whoa, I never realized that was a rule.” Well, I don’t know if it is an official rule, but it works. We don’t need to be so concerned with whether something is an official rule or not. We only need to be concerned with teaching.

Call in A sub

No, I do not mean that you need to call in sick at work and let someone else handle this! Have your students collect a list of nouns. They can be people, places, and things from around the room—no pronouns at this point.

Then, have them write a sentence using the noun and a corresponding sentence with the pronoun. For instance, if a student picks their lunchbox, their sentence might be, “I have a blue lunchbox,” and the corresponding sentence could be. “I have had it for three years.”

Lunchbox is the replaced noun in the second sentence. This is a personal pronoun. The same can be done with any noun.

The Trusty Pronoun Worksheet

Yeah we know in todays technological age why are we dishing out worksheets to children. Well frankly for proof of learning they still have their place. We have put together a set of 5 Pronoun worksheets for mixed ability classes for download (Free) on the link below. When you teach pronouns we suggest a mixed approach though, don’t just do the talk and write method.

Sing a pronoun song!

Now we don’t make these, at least not with my voice as I am terrible at singing. Luckily other teachers seem to have a better voice and have made hundreds of singing and other videos to help you teach pronouns. Most of these are found on YouTube.

Indefinite Pronouns

These can be challenging because they aren’t easy to quantify. This is why they are indefinite. We cannot define them. Have students think of situations where they use indefinite pronouns. Have them write down a conversation they had with their parents the night before.

Have them pick the pronouns and determine if any of them cannot be counted. Everybody can technically be counted, but it would be challenging to count everybody in the world. Anybody, anything, and someone are also not easily determined.

Children need to know that they already know how to use these words. This is more about learning the proper vocabulary and usage.

Teach Pronouns

Have a Ball Pronoun game

This game gets kids up and moving. Stand in a circle around the room. Toss a beachball around the room. When the student catches the beachball, the teacher will read a sentence. The student must choose the pronoun in the sentence. Using physical games to teach pronouns and anything else for that matter adds a different dynamic to the classroom.

If the student is right, they stay in the game, but if they are wrong, they are out. You can include difficult or easy pronouns. For homophones, consider also making them spell the pronoun correctly.

Final Thoughts

There are dozens of ways to teach skills to children. One of the things that teachers must consider is having a good foundation first. Present the material in an exciting, yet straightforward way. Follow up with games and activities. Always scaffold your teaching to the abilities and age of your students.

Children love activities, but sometimes they get so excited about being up and about they weren’t paying attention. The class should be fun and educational.

I have been a teacher of English for over 15 years, in that time i made hundreds and thousands of resources and learnt so much i think its worth sharing. Hopefully to help teachers and parents around the world.

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