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What Is a Subjective Pronoun?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 23, 2024
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A subjective pronoun takes the place of a noun to serve as the subject of a sentence, or to act as subject compliment. The subject of a sentence is the word or phrase within a sentence that is taking the action or otherwise serves as the main actor within the sentence. This is typically represented by a noun such as “dog” or “book” or a proper noun like “Larry” or “New York.” In some instances, however, a subjective pronoun can be used rather than a noun, often following a sentence in which the subject has already been identified or as a subject compliment that refers to the original subject in a sentence.

Proper grammar in sentences that use pronouns often relies on an understanding of when to use a subjective pronoun rather than one that is objective. The subjective form is used when the pronoun acts as the subject of a sentence, such as “She went to the store.” In this sentence, “She” is the subject and is in the form of a pronoun rather than the name of “She” or a noun like “woman.” “Went” is the predicate in the sentence that indicates the action being performed by the subject and “to the store” is a prepositional phrase that indicates the destination for the action.

If a subjective pronoun is used as an object in a sentence, then a grammatical mistake occurs. A sentence like “I know she” is incorrect since it uses “she” as an object, while the proper objective pronoun is “her,” which cannot be used as a subject. New speakers of English, including those learning English as a second language and developing speakers, often have difficulty making the proper objective or subjective pronoun choice, which can result in grammatical mistakes. Such mistakes do not necessarily interfere with meaning, however, so the content of a statement can be understandable even if not grammatically correct.

There are some instances in which a subjective pronoun can be used in a position other than the subject. This use is referred to as a subject compliment and refers back to the subject of a sentence that is either stated or implied. In the sentence, “I am the winner,” the pronoun “I” is clearly the subject of the sentence. If this is reversed to “The winner is I,” then the pronoun becomes a subject compliment that serves to refer to the subject of the sentence, “The winner.” In this usage, the subjective pronoun should be used rather than an objective pronoun, though many people do not follow this rule in informal and spoken English.

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