How to Replace Personal Pronouns Video

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  • 0:04 Pronouns
  • 0:27 First, Second, & Third Person
  • 0:47 Use in Writing
  • 1:16 Examples
  • 2:05 Replacing Personal Pronouns
  • 2:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

Personal pronouns are great for informal writing, but when we write formal essays, we should try to avoid using conversational language. This lesson will demonstrate how to replace first and second person pronouns with third person pronouns.


Pronouns are used in place of nouns. Personal pronouns refer to individuals and can change form depending on their function in a sentence.

The personal pronouns are:

  • I
  • You
  • He
  • She
  • It
  • We, and
  • They

These pronouns are commonly used in conversation and in informal writing situations.

Here's an example:

  • They told me that you wanted to see me.

First, Second, & Third Person

We can think of pronouns as referring to the self (I, we), to the addressee (you), and to others (he, she, it, and they).

  • First person pronouns are pronouns that refer to the self
  • Second person pronouns are pronouns that refer to the addressee
  • Third person pronouns are pronouns that refer to others

Use in Writing

Typically, writers should avoid using conversational language in formal writing. When writers use first and second person pronouns (I and you), the writing can sound like a conversation between the reader and writer. While this effect may be appropriate - or even desirable - in casual writing, conversational language is generally considered inappropriate in formal writing. In other words, while personal pronouns are appropriate for casual notes and e-mails, more formal writing occasions call for the use of third person pronouns.


The following sentence contains personal pronouns:

  • I think you should have to attend parenting classes if you're found guilty of child abuse.

This sentence sounds like a conversation between two people, doesn't it? Its purpose is clear. The writer states a position on a controversial issue.

While this sentence would be appropriate in a conversation between friends, it would not work as well in a formal essay. The sentence sounds almost as if the writer is suggesting, with the use of the pronoun ''you'', that the reader is guilty of child abuse.

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