Pronouns in English are simple, useful words like I, me, he, his, she, and her.  Although these words are simple, using them correctly can sometimes be tricky.  When should you use “I” or “me”?  Which of these sentences is correct?

  • He told the secret to she and I.
  • He told the secret to her and me.
  • He told the secret to her and I.

In this blog post we will explore the difference between subject and object pronouns.  We will also show how to use them correctly in both simple and complex sentences.

What is a pronoun?

A pronoun is a short word that replaces a noun.  Pronouns make speaking and writing English less repetitive.  Instead of writing or saying the name of a person, place, or thing over and over again, you can use pronouns like “he,” “she,” and “it.”  However, although a name can be both the subject and object of a sentence, subject and object pronouns are different.  Here are all the English subject and object pronouns, and where they should be placed around a verb:

Subject Pronoun

Verb Object Pronoun

I

Me

You

You

He

Him

She

Her

It

It

They

Them

We

Us

How to use pronouns?

To be clear about what subjects and objects are, let’s review English sentence structure.

Subject Verb Object
John eats pizza.
Betty studies math.
The dog bites a man.

The subject is who or what does the action.  The object is who or what receives the action.  Now, we can replace these subjects and objects with pronouns if the reader or listener already knows what they are.  In general, if a pronoun comes before a verb, we should use a subject pronoun.  If the pronoun comes after a verb, we should use an object pronoun.  For example:

Subject Verb Object
He eats it.
She studies it.
It bites him.

Notice in the last example that the object pronoun is “him” and not “he.”  That’s because “a man” is the receiver of the action, and not the doer.

Pronouns in more complex sentences

When sentences become more complex, it’s important to pay attention to who or what is doing an action, and who or what is receiving an action.  In some cases, you can’t automatically make all pronouns after a verb object pronouns.  For example:

  • Jill helps Bill with homework and Bill thanks Jill.
  • She helps him with homework and he thanks her.

Notice that the subjects and objects are arranged around two different verbs in this sentence.

Now that we understand how to decide if a pronoun is a subject or object pronoun, let’s check the examples from the beginning of this post.  Which is correct?

  1. He told the secret to she and I.
  2. He told the secret to her and me.
  3. He told the secret to her and I.

If we follow the rule that subjects do an action and objects receive an action, then it’s clear the 2) is the correct answer!