Commonly Confused Words: Pronoun Confusion

questionsA keen eye for detail will come to your aid as you try to navigate the confusing world that is English pronouns. Although even many natural speakers confuse these words, too, well-educated ones don’t and you shouldn’t either. Fortunately, we’re here to help!

Who’s vs Whose
Despite the fact that these two sound almost identical – a native speaker would be hard-pressed to tell them apart – they are used in fundamentally different ways. That’s because who’s is the contraction of “who is” while whose is a possessive word used in much the same way as “which” (except for people instead things). That means we could say “Whose car is that in the driveway” or “Who’s in charge here?” but never vice-versa.

Who vs Whom
Although these two look similar, the extra “m” on whom makes a big difference. That’s because who is used as a subject pronoun and whom is used as an object pronoun. While that might seem confusing at first, it really is simple once you get the hang of it. After all, as a subject pronoun who can replace other pronouns like “I, he, and they” while whom would replace object pronouns like “me, him, and them.” Thus we say “who gave you a present?” and “You gave a present to whom?” If you need an easy way to remember this trick just look to the “m’s” on the other object pronouns – me, him, them – and you will be right as rain.

Your vs You’re
Don’t worry if you have problems with this set – even native speakers have a tendency to mix them up. Fortunately, however, there is a method to the madness! Let’s start with “you’re” which is the contraction of the pronoun “you” and the verb “are” and would replace both of those words in a sentence. If it does not make sense to do that, you should not use the four-letter “your,” as this is a possessive pronoun that is used to convey ownership. Thus we might say “if you’re not clear on this, it’s your problem not mine!”

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