ESL Personal Pronouns Activities & Exercises

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

Given that personal pronouns (both subject and object) are common in everyday speech, your ESL students really need to learn them. Here are some fun activities and exercises to help you make personal pronouns stick.

Nail the Pronouns First

You may be surprised by how often your ESL students mess up personal pronouns. For example, it is common for ESL students to have difficulty placing 'it' appropriately. Before the fun activities in this lesson, your ESL students should be able to manage personal pronouns fairly well. So, we begin with a set of activities that ensure your students grasp the usage of each personal pronoun.

Activities for Learning Personal Pronouns

These activities allow your students to practice using personal pronouns by replacing nouns or proper names with subject pronouns:

  • Using subject pronouns: To teach students about subject pronouns, or pronouns that serve as the subjects of verbs, give your students handouts with several nouns/proper names. Their job is to replace each noun/proper name with a subject pronoun. For example, they would replace 'Charles' with 'he' and 'my mother and I' with 'we.'
  • Using object pronouns. This activity helps teach object pronouns, or pronouns used to represent nouns that receive the actions in sentences. Your ESL students can complete a similar activity by replacing nouns/proper names with object pronouns. To illustrate, replace 'give Charles the money' with 'give him the money' and replace 'Mary knows Anne' with 'Mary knows her.'

Once you see that your students know how to use personal pronouns, they can move on to some more advanced activities. The following activities help ESL students reinforce the usage of personal pronouns.

Subject Pronoun Practice

An Inference Game

The inference game works with groups of five students or more. In each group, one student works as a moderator. The other students each get a piece of paper with an action sentence explaining what they have to do, such as:

  • I have to clean the house.
  • I have to go shopping for groceries.
  • I have to organize a wedding.
  • I have to work in the garden.
  • We have to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

(You might print two of the same action involving the pronoun 'we' so that two students get to work together.) Now, each student reads aloud her/his action sentence to the others. Once everyone is clear on each peer's action, the moderator pulls a piece of paper out of a bag. The bag should be filled with pieces of paper displaying questions pertaining to the action sentences, such as:

  • Who has to do the dishes?
  • Who has to pick up meat for today's lunch?
  • Who has to water the flowers?

The moderator reads aloud each question, and the first student to answer aloud correctly gets a point. The only rule is that students must use he/she/they and point to the person they are referring to--they should not use the actual names of their peers. If they do, they lose a point.

Let's say that Carlos has 'I have to clean the house,' Adriana has 'I have to go shopping for groceries,' and Mario and Lorena have 'We have to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner.' The game might go as follows:

  • Moderator: Who has to get meat at the supermarket?
  • Mario: She (pointing at Adriana) has to get meat at the supermarket.
  • Moderator: Who has to scramble eggs?
  • Carlos: They (pointing at Mario and Lorena) have to scramble eggs.

An alternative to this activity is to give students only the action sentences. In this case, you don't need a moderator. Students simply write a list of activities that relate to the others' work. Give them several minutes to come up with as many sentences as possible, then have students share with their groups.

I Have A...

In this activity, each student picks a piece of paper from a bag. The pieces of paper in the bag contain nouns, like 'brother,' 'sister' and 'friend.' The student must come up with a sentence that begins with 'I have a...' and complete each with the noun. Next, the student says something about the noun using the appropriate subject pronoun. For example:

  • Maritza gets 'brother.' She says, 'I have a brother. He is tall.'
  • Pablo gets 'mom.' He says, 'I have a mom. She is very kind and loving.'

Alternatively, if the student does not have a brother, mom, sister, etc., the student can say, 'I don't have a...' and complete the statement with, 'But I do have....' For example:

  • Ahmed gets 'sister'. He says, 'I don't have a sister, but I have a brother. He is in Saudi Arabia right now.'

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