Saturday, November 17, 2007

Back to Basics: Pronouns

Pronouns seem pretty straightforward. You take a noun, you replace it with a word that stands for the object, and you move on. Who wants to write, “Bob started to tidy Bob's apartment. Bob took Bob's shoes to Bob's room and put the shoes in Bob's closet”? He can take his shoes and stick them at that point, for all your readers would care.

Like anything in English, different forms of various pronouns are used in different grammatical situations. Sure, I could set out an enormous list of every form I can recall and explain the use of each. But I'm not going to do that.

Instead, click over to the Internet of English Grammar and their handy pronoun page. Trust me, you'd prefer to read it there, well organized. It's one of their five pages about nouns.

But pronouns have hidden depth under their simple exterior. Wait: if you read that last link you already know that they are pretty complicated. If they were so easy to use, would I have bothered with a whole post dedicated to the things? Pretend I didn't write that.

For those of you who missed it the first time around or haven't been re-reading it every week to admire my fascinating research, I'll post links to my earlier series on using singular pronouns when you don't know (or wish to conceal) the gender of your noun. That will save all of us from my rehashing the whole thing here.

Defining the Problem
Using Plural Pronouns
The Finale




Concealing gender for even a short bit in writing is difficult without it being obvious. I've done it in a fan fiction--my readers got a kick out of it--but it's hard.

And arranging complex sentences with multiple people so the pronoun references are obvious is also difficult. Some people look at the subject of the sentence if a "he" comes later; some people look at the last mentioned name.


Words are so . . . confining.