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How to Teach “I” and “You” Pronouns

When it comes to teaching language fundamentals, it can easily become quite overwhelming even for the most experienced teachers. There is so much content to cover and a timeframe that just seems to shrink faster than you can keep up with. So, what can we do about this? Certain important language teaching such as the “I” and “You” pronouns simply cannot be left by the wayside. In this article, we’ll be sharing some tips on how to handle these key teaching points.

I and you are often confused pronouns in English especially with beginning or emergent learners of the language. When teaching the difference between these it is important to use an many methods as possible including, example heavy activities, music, and even old school drilling to cement this knowledge.

how to teach i and you pronouns

Why are “I” and “You” Pronouns So Important?

Pronouns serve a critical function in most languages, replacing nouns so that our sentences are both less laborious to say, and less tiresome to listen to. Can you imagine the English language with no pronouns? You’d get sick to the back teeth of whatever nouns you were talking about and unable to replace them with pronouns.

For early learners, pronouns like “I” and “you” carry additional importance, because they are part of both self and peer identification. For older students and adult learners, mastering these pronouns are key to sounding both accurate and fluent when speaking, and also assist in other skill areas such as reading comprehension and writing.

Knowing who “I” or “you” refers to in a reading piece, for instance, is one of the core skills that ESL students need to complete the TOEFL test.

What is the Difference between I and You Pronouns?

The pronoun “I” is a first-person singular pronoun that is used to refer to oneself. For example, if someone’s name is Jessica and she wants to say “I am going to the store,” she would use the pronoun “I” to refer to herself.

The pronoun “you” is a second-person pronoun that is used to refer to the person being spoken to. For example, if someone says “Do you want to go to the store with me?” the pronoun “you” is being used to refer to the person being spoken to.

In general, first-person pronouns are used to refer to the person speaking or writing, while second-person pronouns are used to refer to the person being spoken to or written to.

What Are Pronouns.

Just as a quick refresher we thought it best to quickly explain what pronouns are before we jump into some tips and advice for teaching them

Pronouns are words that can be used in place of nouns. Some examples of pronouns include “I,” “me,” “you,” “he,” “she,” “it,” “we,” “us,” “they,” “them,” and “who.”

Pronouns can be used to refer to people, animals, or things, and can be either singular or plural, depending on the noun they are replacing. For example, “I” is a singular pronoun that can be used to refer to one person, while “we” is a plural pronoun that can be used to refer to more than one person.

” I and you” Points of Confusion

While “I” and “you” may seem like a simple matter to adult native speakers, there are more potential points of confusion than you realize. Young learners, both native and ESL learners may struggle to understand how “I” differs from “me” for example, not to mention “mine.”

What’s more, “you” carries the ever-confusing double identity of being a singular and plural reference. How can you convey that clearly to learners?

ESL learners may also get confused if and when “I” and “you” are very different from the system of pronouns used in their own language. The Chinese language, for instance, while differentiating between regular and possessive pronouns, does not have a distinction between “I” and “me”.

So, teachers of all stripes have to contend with all this, never forgetting that they have to successfully teach this critical content to their students. How can that best be managed? We’ll get into that below.

how to teach i and you pronouns

Lots of Examples

The first important element of teaching “I” and “you” pronouns is that you must include lots of examples. In a language so riddled with exceptions to rules as English is, the best way of getting people to understand things like first- and second-person pronouns is to just start using them, both in spoken and written examples.

Step 1: Give Key Information, and Write Examples on the Board

Start with your key information on the two pronouns, keeping waffle and information overload to an absolute minimum.

  • “I” – the first-person pronoun; we use to talk about ourselves; differs from “me” because it can be the subject of a sentence
  • “You” – the second-person pronoun; can be singular or plural; it can also be the subject of a sentence

If you think this is enough information, then move straight into giving examples. Start by writing examples on your board or screen display. Show several different situations or circumstances that show the breadth of how “I” and “You” can be used.

Step 2: Use Spoken Examples with Students

After using written examples, turn to the students and create further spoken examples using them as the subject of each sentence or dialogue. Involving the students helps them feel more closely connected to the content, and they will be able to relate to what you’re saying more effectively.

Step 3: Get Students Making Their Own Examples

Once you can see the students get it, have them start speaking back with their own examples referring to themselves and their classmates. The most direct path to students retaining what they are learning is for them to use it, so now that you’ve given them the tools, let them have at it and see what they can produce.

Activity Ideas

To reinforce your notes, examples and initial practice, a solid and structured activity is another way to further strengthen that learning process. Below are some ideas for activities at different levels that work well in teaching “I” and “you” pronouns, and can be expanded to other pronouns in good time.

Younger Learners: Musical Pronouns

Students can sit in their usual seats, or you can clear a space in the center of the room for them to sit. For this activity, all you need is a ball (or other easy-to-pass object) and some music to play.

  • You’ll also need to pre-prepare some questions with pronouns, such as sentences with gaps.
  • Put the music on and have them pass the ball to each other,
  • after a short time, stop the music and see who is left holding the ball.
  • Ask that student to complete a question or another task you’ve given them. If they’re right, they stay in, if not, they’re out.
  • For those students who are out, keep them involved by helping correct others who make mistakes, and/or offering answers where others can’t answer questions.

You could have them operate the music round by round, or help judge where the ball should be.

Innovative: “Roll the Dice” Sentences

This one takes a bit more prep, but suits a wide range of learners of different ages and backgrounds. First, the students need to draw up a quick table with two columns. The left column should be labeled “Subjects” and the right column “Objects.” Students should fill in the left column with names, and pronouns, and the right column with different objects.

To start, keep things simple by only having two words in the “Subject” column, “I” and “You” – you can always add more later on.

Try to have at least 6 items in your object file. Next, students roll two dice, one that corresponds to “Subjects” and one to “Objects.” If you only have “I” and “You” right now, have one fit with odd numbers, and the other with even numbers on the dice.

After rolling, students will get two words from the columns that they then have to quickly put together into a full sentence. So getting “I” and “smartphone” could result in the answer:

“I want to buy a smartphone, but my parents won’t allow it.”

Old School: Practice Drills

For the more old-school practitioner, there’s nothing quite like some exercises and drills to get students familiar with any set of pronouns. Have them take a paragraph where there are no “I” or “you” pronouns, only people’s names, and correct it with the right pronouns. You can also give them blank-fill exercises, sentence correction, and more.

These kinds of activities can feel old-fashioned, for sure, but sometimes it’s what students need most to get their heads around the different pronouns and how to use them.

Pronouns Resources

As we are a resource site we do have a selection of free resources to read, print and download that cover pronouns in all their confusing glory! You can check them out on the links below.


While tricky at a beginner level, pronouns are vitally important. they allow students to communicate and identity with each other from the very start of their English Language learning.

Although there will be plenty of mistakes made, as it should be but perseverance is the key to master i and you pronouns, and then to extend this knowledge into both other personal pronouns and other forms as well.



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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