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What Is a Nominative Pronoun?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

A nominative pronoun takes the appropriate form to act as the subject in a sentence or clause. In general, a pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun, such as “book” or “people,” in a sentence and includes words like “it” or “they.” The subject of a sentence is the thing, usually a noun or pronoun, which is taking the primary action in a sentence. A nominative pronoun is simply the form of a pronoun, usually a personal pronoun like “he” or “we,” when it is used as the subject in a sentence.

It may be easiest to understand what a nominative pronoun is by first understanding its two basic aspects. The first is that it is a pronoun, which is a word that stands in for or takes the place of a noun. Nouns are basic words that represent people, places, things, and ideas and include words like “book,” “dog,” “William,” “city,” and “freedom.” Repeated use of a noun in a single sentence or paragraph, however, can become laborious for a reader or speaker. Pronouns are often used to break up the repetition and include words like “it” and “he,” which can take the place of “book” or “William.”

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

The second major aspect of a nominative pronoun is that it takes the form of a subject in a sentence. In a simple sentence like “The cat ran,” there are two basic elements of the sentence: the subject and the predicate. The subject of the sentence is the thing taking the major action, in the form of a verb or predicate, in the sentence. In this example, “The cat” is the subject and “ran” is the predicate, though more complex sentences can include additional words and phrases.

A nominative pronoun is simply a pronoun that acts as the subject within a sentence, which is why it can also be called a subjective pronoun. If someone wrote two sentences as “The man sat down with a woman. The man then handed a book to the woman,” they would be grammatically correct. They are also quite repetitive, even within the small structure of two short sentences. Pronouns can be used to replace some of the nouns and noun phrases to make these sentences more interesting.

In the previous example, “The man” is the subject of both sentences. This means that any pronoun used to replace it must be a nominative pronoun. The “woman” in both sentences is an object within the sentences, and so it cannot be replaced by a nominative pronoun but instead by an objective pronoun.

“He” and “she” are nominative cases while “him” and “her” are objective; the sentences could be rewritten as “The man sat down with a woman. He then handed a book to her.” Many people can struggle with identifying nominative and objective cases, and may use incorrect forms in each position. This often occurs with the pronouns “who,” the nominative case, and “whom,” the objective.

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    • Woman standing behind a stack of books
      Woman standing behind a stack of books