After learning about nouns and verbs, the next part of speech you can teach is pronouns. Pronouns take the place of nouns so that we don’t sound ridiculous when we speak. If we didn’t have pronouns, we would speak in third person! (Christie thinks that Christie has to go to Target to buy what Christie wants.) Thankfully, we have pronouns so that we don’t repeat ourselves over and over again or sound insane. Even though pronouns seem to be an easy part of our language, some problems in usage still arise. It’s best to teach your children 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person (pronoun case) to the point they understand that well before trying to go into more detail with pronouns. Otherwise, some issues with pronouns can arise in their writing if left to their own devices. Pronoun errors can vary from not agreeing with their antecedent (the noun the pronoun replaces), redundant pronouns, vague pronoun references, etc. etc. What does all of that mean? Let me explain.
First of all, teaching 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person can be done with three people (or animals) in a room. Point to yourself and say the 1st person is the person talking, point to your child and say the 2nd person is the person being spoken to, and point to the other person in the room while still talking to the child and say 3rd person is the person being talked about. If you don’t have a 3rd person, just use talking about your next door neighbors as your “3rd” person. Do this until it clicks! Then, you can start practicing using sentences with singular pronouns such as “I, you, he/she/it” (Keep pointing!) and then use “me, you, him/her/it” and then practice plural pronouns like “we/you/they” and “us/you/them,” etc. etc. I linked a chart below from the Purdue Owl website to help you understand/teach pronoun case.
Here are some examples of common writing errors with pronouns (Adapted from Evergreen: A Guide to Writing with Readings):
Incorrect: Jackie Chan, whom (wrong case) became a famous movie star, performs death-defying stunts hisself (not a word!). Few movie stars can claim a career as unusual as him (wrong case). Because his parents and him (wrong case) were so poor, he was sent to live and study at an opera school. There, they (vague pronoun reference) trained him in acting, dancing, singing, and kung fu. When the school closed in 1971, their (disagrees in number with antecedent) lessons paid off. Chan, he (redundant and unnecessary pronoun) benefited in unexpected ways. Jackie Chan became one of Hong Kong’s most popular stars. Other celebrities just don’t compare. He became more famous than them (wrong case in comparisons).
Corrected: Jackie Chan, who became a famous movie star, performs death-defying stunts himself. Few movie stars can claim a career as unusual as his. Because his parents and he were so poor, he was sent to live and study at an opera school. There, experts trained him in acting, dancing, singing, and kung fu. When the school closed in 1971, its lessons paid off. Chan benefited in unexpected ways. Jackie Chan became one of Hong Kong’s most popular stars. Other celebrities just don’t compare. He became more famous than they.
Some tricks to help:
When it comes to who/whom or whoever/whomever, just substitute he and him in the sentence: He=who and him=whom. Pick the one that sounds correct: whom/him became a famous movie star (Nope!); who/he became a famous movie star. Who works here!
When you say something like “his parents and him,” take out the other person and just use the pronoun. Pick the one that sounds correct.
Because him was so poor…Nope! Because his parents and he were so poor…
When you are comparing, finish the sentence in your mind to see if you picked the correct pronoun: He became more famous than them (did). Nope! He became more famous than they.
Now that you understand pronoun usage better (or are more confused than ever), use the following links to help you learn more: