Understanding Subject Pronouns

A pronoun used as the subject of a clause or as a subject complement while a subject pronoun is in the subjective (or nominative) case.

The subject pronouns in English are I, you, he, she, it, we, they, who, whoever, and what. (Note that you, it, and what also function as object pronouns.) 

Examples and Observations

  • "'And so,' said the Lorax,
    '--please pardon my cough--
    they cannot live here.
    So I'm sending them off."
    (Dr. Seuss, The Lorax. Random House, 1971)
  • "My mother taught Prim and me to eat properly, so yes, I can handle a fork and knife."
    (Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games. Scholastic, 2008)
  • "Grey's Anatomy was one thing that she and I agreed on. We were both addicts of the medical drama, and we were rarely disappointed for our devotion and attention."
    (James Patterson, Double Cross. Little, Brown, 2007)
  • "I crawl up on the bed next to her. I am not supposed to read over her shoulder because I read more quickly than she does, and it makes her mad when I get to the end of the page and look up and hum, waiting for her to turn it."
    (Laura Moriarty, The Center of Everything. Hyperion, 2003)
  • "Bailey and I sloshed down twilight trails to the pig pens, and standing on the first fence rungs we poured down the unappealing concoctions to our grateful hogs. They mashed their tender pink snouts down into the slop, and rooted and grunted their satisfaction. We always grunted a reply only half in jest."
    (Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Random House, 1969)
  • "As Herman left Weber's Café a few days later, he saw two boys hanging around on the other side of the road, staring at him. He walked up toward Kirkestræde, and they followed him on the opposite sidewalk."
    (Carsten Jensen, We, the Drowned, trans. from the Danish by Charlotte Barslund with Emma Ryder. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011)
  • "We had been out for one of our evening rambles, Holmes and I, and had returned about six o'clock on a cold, frosty winter's evening. . . .
    "'Who is he,' I asked.
    "'The worst man in London,' Holmes answered, as he sat down and stretched his legs before the fire. . . .
    "'But who is he?'
    "'I'll tell you, Watson. He is the king of all the blackmailers.'"
    (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton." The Return of Sherlock Holmes, 1904)

Usage Tips: I or Me?

  • "The subject pronoun I and the object pronoun me are sometimes confused in informal speech, especially in the phrases It's me and Between you and I.
  • "After verbs and prepositions, the object pronoun me should be used; before verbs, the subject pronoun I should be used. . . . My friend and I [not me] will help. Confusion and errors occur in the highest places: She could give a better answer than that to I and to my honourable friends (said during Prime Minister's Question Time).
  • "These problems rarely arise when the pronoun stands alone; any confusion may therefore be resolved by mentally removing the other item(s) and assessing the result: . . . I will help.
  • "The verb to be, according to grammatical convention, is an exception: in formal contexts It is me is unacceptable to a few careful users, who prefer It is I. However, in informal contexts the idiomatic It's me is generally considered to be more natural than the pedantic It's I and is acceptable to most users." (Martin Manser, Good Word Guide, 6th ed. Bloomsbury, 2011)

    Pronoun Forms After Comparatives

    "When the second clause has a pronominal subject and the verb of the clause is omitted, there is also the matter of the form of the pronoun. As an example, consider (24). If am, included in the comparative sentence in (24a) is deleted, the subject pronoun I often changes to the object pronoun me, as in (24b). According to the prescriptivist rule, the pronoun should remain I as in (24c), but in speech the object pronoun form is far more common.

    (24a) He is older than I am.
    (24b) He is older than me.
    (24c) He is older than I."

    (Ron Cowan, The Teacher's Grammar of English: A Course Book and Reference Guide. Cambridge University Press, 2008)