What Are Subjective Personal Pronouns (with Examples)

by Craig Shrives

Subjective Personal Pronouns

The subjective personal pronouns are "I," "you," "she," "he," "it," "we," "you," and "they." A subjective personal pronoun indicates that the pronoun is acting as the subject of the verb.

subjective personal pronouns


Subjective personal pronouns are personal pronouns in the subjective case.

Examples of Subjective Personal Pronouns

Here are some examples of subjective personal pronouns in sentences:
  • We bought a pound of apples.
  • ("We" is the subject of the verb "bought.")
  • He decided to row to the island.
  • ("He" is the subject of the verb "decided.")
  • Duct tape is like the force. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together. (Author Carl Zwanzig)
  • ("It" is the subject of the verbs "has." "It" is then the subject of the verbs "holds." Note: Subjective personal pronouns do not have to be the subject of a sentence, but they do have to be the subject of a verb. Look at the two examples below.)
  • Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and, instead of bleeding, he sings. (Conductor Ed Gardner)
  • ("He" is the subject of the verb "sings.")
  • Things are only impossible until they 're not. (Writer Hannah Louise Shearer)
  • ("They" is the subject of the verb "are." Remember that "they're" is a contraction of "they are.")

Describing Subjective Personal Pronouns

Personal Pronouns are described as first person, second person, or third person and as either singular or plural. So, there are six categories in total. The table below shows the terms we use to describe personal pronouns.
Describing TermSubjective Personal Pronoun
First Person SingularI
Second Person Singularyou
Third Person Singularhe/she/it
First Person Pluralwe
Second Person Pluralyou
Third Person Pluralthey

More about Pronouns...

Whether we know it or not, we all select a personal pronoun having first determined its:
  • Person
  • Is the personal pronoun representing something:
    • In the first person? (This is the speaker himself or a group that includes the speaker, i.e., "I," "me," "we," and "us.")
    • In the second person? (This is the speaker's audience, i.e., "you.")
    • In the third person? (This is everybody else, i.e., "he," "she,""it," "they.")
  • Case
  • Is the personal pronoun representing something that is a subject or an object?

Subjective Personal Pronouns As Subject Complements

On occasion, a subjective personal pronoun will follow a linking verb to identify the subject. For example (subjective personal pronouns shaded):
  • It was I.
  • (In this example, "It" is the subject, "was" is the linking verb, and "I" is the subject complement.)
  • The burglar is he.
  • (In this example, "The burglar" is the subject, "is" is the linking verb, and "he" is the subject complement.)

Nowadays, most people would say "It was me" and "The burglar is him." Nevertheless, pronouns that are subject complements can be in the subjective case. In fact, saying "It was I" is still more popular than saying "It was me." [evidence]

Read more about subjective personal pronouns as subject complements.

Objective Personal Pronouns

Subjective personal pronouns contrast with objective personal pronouns, which are not used as subjects of verbs but as objects.
Proper TermObjective Personal Pronoun
First Person Singular me
Second Person Singular you
Third Person Singular him/her/it
First Person Plural us
Second Person Plural you
Third Person Plural them

Read more about objective personal pronouns.
Read more about the different types of pronouns.

Why Should I Care about Subjective Personal Pronouns?

Here are three good reasons to care about subjective personal pronouns.

(Reason 1) It is essential to understand subjective personal pronouns when learning a foreign language.

Subjective personal pronouns determine how a verb changes (or "how a verb conjugates" as it's called). So, if you are learning a foreign language or teaching English, you must know your subjective personal pronouns inside out and how they govern verbs.

Here are some examples of how the subjective personal pronouns appear in language books:
Person English German French Spanish
First Person Singular I play ich spiele je joue yo juego
Second Person Singular you play du spielst tu joues tu juegas
Third Person Singular he/she/it plays er/sie/es spielt il/elle joue el/ella/usted juega
First Person Plural we play wir spielen nous jouons nosotros jugamos
Second Person Plural you play ihr spielt vous jouez vosotros jagais
Third Person Plural they play Sie spielen ils/ells jouent ellos/ellas/ustedes juegan
If you understand our grammar terms, you'll absorb their language mucho mas rapido.

(Reason 2) Don't use "I" as the object of a verb or the object of a preposition.

"I" is a subjective person pronoun. It must be a subject of a verb. You can't use it as an object of a verb (e.g., He saw I ) or as the object of a preposition (e.g., about I , for I , with I ). This includes when "I" features in terms like "my wife and I" and "between you and I." For example:
  • They supported my wife and I.
  • (The subjective pronoun "I" must be the subject of a verb. Here, it's the direct object of the verb "supported." It should read "They supported my wife and me." Of note though, the term "my wife and me" grates on the ear of most native English speakers, who prefer the word order "me and my wife." This is also a factor in writers opting for "my wife and I," which for many sounds more natural than "my wife and me.")
  • He sent flowers from my wife and I.
  • ("I" cannot be the object of a preposition. This should be "...from me and my wife.")
  • My wife and I sent flowers.
  • (This time, "I" is fine. It's the subject of the verb "sent.")
  • Keep this between you and I.
  • (The term "between you and I" is always wrong. It should be "between you and me.")

(Reason 3) The subject of an order is "you."

The subject of an imperative sentence (i.e. an order) is "you." For example:
  • Call me when you arrive.
  • (There is an inferred "you" in this order. In other words, the subjective personal pronoun "you" is the subject of an imperative verb.)
  • [You] Call me when you arrive.
  • (Even though we don't say the "you," it is inferred.)
This point matters because you can only use "yourself" or "yourselves" with an imperative verb (i.e., an order). You can't use "myself." This is a common mistake.
  • Contact your line manager or myself if you have any questions.
  • (You can't use "myself" with "you" (even an inferred "you" in an order). This should be "me" not "myself.")
Read more about this writing mistake on the "reflexive pronouns" page.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

What are personal pronouns? What is the subjective case? What are objective personal pronouns? What is a subject complement? What are linking verbs? Glossary of grammatical terms