You Are the One, He is the Other, She is the Other – Grammar 101 in Second Person Pronouns
You are stuck on something and cannot figure it out; what is that thing? Is it a lion on a cliff or a bear at the bottom of a river? Is it a pot of gold or a piano in the jungle? No matter what you want to call it; you cannot answer with absolute certainty because there is no right answer. The correct answer would be whatever you feel to be right at that particular moment.
In our modern world pronouns are used that can cause problems in many grammatical situations. For example, “you” as a singular pronoun has the tendency to become a possessive pronoun if it occurs more than once in a sentence. “You are” as a possessive pronoun has the tendency to become a pronoun used with reference to a single person, sometimes even including the gender of the individual. “Your” as a possessive pronoun always indicates a single person, and “it” always indicates a single entity.
With pronouns as with nouns and adjectives, you can use either the first or the second person singular pronouns – you, me, we, him/her, etc., or the reflexive form of the verb (I am, you are). In a sentence like “You are the best detective”, the first person is we; “you are the best detective” in the second person is he/she; and “you are the best detective” in the third person is “you.” As you can see, the problem lies with the Reflexive Form, which can cause problems with the following sentences: “The detective is the best detective.”
There are some common patterns that you should watch out for when teaching your students how to construct sentences with pronouns. In the second person, you should not require a pronoun in the Reflexive Form (I am the one, you are the one, he/she/it is…) and you do not need to indicate the gender of the individual using a pronoun. “The detective is the best detective.” Here are some sample situations where this rule can be abused: “The police are the best police.”
Even though the third person pronouns (he/she/it) are usually optional in the use of the verbs in the present tense, you should not teach students not to include them in the Reflexive Form. “The man who jumped over the fence will be held responsible.” This sentence could be rendered, “The man who jumped over the fence will be held responsible if found guilty.” In the Reflexive Form, you would need to indicate that the man who jumped was the one who jumped, just as you would with the first or third person pronouns.
There are several other grammatical principles that you can teach your students about. You can find many additional articles on my website. In addition to teaching students correct usage of pronouns, you will learn about other important parts of speech, such as verbs and their derivatives, and how they should be used in your writing. Grammar is a wonderful tool for all learners, but it takes effort on the part of the learner. By learning proper usage, you can help your student to become a more accurate writer and a better communicator overall.