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chapter 3.4 Subjects: Nouns and Pronouns as Subjects

The role of subject is often played by a noun. Sometimes a pronoun can stand in the place of a noun.

A noun labels or names a person, a place, a thing, or an idea. The words in bold below are nouns:

The message came from Harold Durum in Illinois, where the sky is broad and the farmers cherish their freedom.
A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun.

Gary can't find his polka-dotted shoelace because Gary he dropped the shoelace it behind the bathtub in the dark.
The pronoun it takes the place of the noun shoelace and refers to an earlier mention of that same noun. The pronoun he replaces and refers to Gary. Some other pronouns that replace and point backward to nouns are they, them*, she, her*, he, and him*.
Those shoelaces cost Gary $3.50 and Gary he washed the shoelaces them every night. The shoelaces They meant a lot to Gary him.
Several other pronouns don't have to point backwards to the words they replace because everyone knows what they stand for:
  • I, me*, = the person speaking
  • we, us*, = the people speaking
  • you = the person or people listening
The pronouns with an asterisk (*) beside them cannot be used as subjects. Chapter 13 examines pronouns in more detail.

pencil Application 3
Not all nouns and pronouns are subjects. Some play other roles in their sentences:
You shouldn't tease Gary about shoelaces.
Give him a break.
In this pair of sentences there are several non-subject nouns (Gary, shoelaces, break) and a non-subject pronoun (him). Remember that the pronoun you is understood to be the subject in a command.

  pencil Application 4

TIP FOR ESL STUDENTS:
Click on the ESL icon at left to visit "Need to Fill Subject Position" for a reminder that, unlike sentences in some other languages, English sentences must include words that express the subject. Practice these forms with a teacher or tutor.

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