Hey preppy people!

Welcome back to the Upper Test Side, where the verbs hit hard and the punctuation hits harder. I’ve been closely watching the comings and goings of all the different parts of speech, and I just can’t wait to share the juiciest of scoops about pronouns.

And just what are pronouns? Always followers and never leaders, pronouns are “noun replacements” (words like “it,” “they,” or “who”). They can be found somewhere after their antecedents (the nouns they replace) and are always agreeing with those antecedents in both number and case. Basically, pronouns are those wannabes who trail around after the popular kids and agree with them about everything. There are a few different types of pronouns—personal pronouns, reflexive pronouns, relative pronouns, the list goes on. For the most part, though, pronoun agreement (singular vs plural and subject case vs object case) and pronoun ambiguity are the most common pronoun topics you’ll encounter on standardized tests.

I had fun reading all your emails. You all really must love getting down and dirty with grammar. Keep ‘em coming.

Your Pronoun Questions:

Q: What’s up, Grammar Girl?
I somehow managed to make it this far in life not knowing the difference between “who” and “whom.” HALP.

A: Hello, friend! You are definitely not alone on that one. Let’s be honest—who even says “whom” anymore? Standardized tests, that’s who. Anywho, you can think of “who” and “whom” in the same way as “he” and “him”. “Who” and “he” are both in the subject case, as in, “Who loves grammar? He loves grammar!” The subject is the one doing the loving. On the other hand, “him” and “whom” (which both conveniently end in “m”) are both in object case, meaning that the action of the verb is happening to them (like in, “Whom are you calling? You are calling him to let him know that you also love grammar!”)

Q: GG, you’ve gotta help me. What’s the deal with “it’s”?

A: Good one. Pronouns can get a little sneaky when it comes to contractions and possessives. Unlike regular nouns, if a pronoun ends in the letter “s” and doesn’t have an apostrophe, it’s possessive (“his”, “hers”, “its”). But if there is a pronoun with an apostrophe before the “s,” it means you’re dealing with two words joined into a contraction (“it’s” = “it is” and “they’re” = “they are”). And if you ever happen to encounter an “its’” among your answer choices, cross it off, because it’s a cheap trick from the test makers—there’s no such word.

Q: Dear GG,
I noticed that sometimes in my SAT prep, the correct answer is an actual noun instead of a pronoun. Aren’t the shorter choices supposed to be better?

A: You’re spot on about those short and sweet answer choices, but just remember that pronouns wouldn’t be caught dead in an ambiguous context. If it isn’t clear what a pronoun might be referring to, it’s better to use a real noun instead.

That’s all for now. But I’ll be back. You know I love grammar.

X, O, X, and O,

Grammar Girl

P.S. Want the DL on more ACT and SAT topics? Schedule your free session with a Student Success Advisor to get the inside scoop on all things test prep!