A pronoun is a noun that takes the place of a person, place, or thing that has been previously mentioned. A pronoun is classified as a “content” word because it adds meaning to a sentence.
Sometimes a pronoun is stressed and sometimes it isn’t. Let’s take a look at some sentences using different types of pronouns to see where they occur in the sentence and when we usually do and don’t stress them.
1. Subject pronoun a. Unstressed subject pronoun: A subject pronoun is unstressed when it is not considered important in a particular sentence.We do not stress the pronoun if we do not need clarification or if the message is clear to us.
As a general rule of thumb, if the subject pronoun is not stressed, you will usually stress the verb that comes after it, as well as any other words that add meaning.
Look at the following examples. The stressed words are in bold print and the subject pronouns are in red.
Examples: I like going for a walk on Saturdays. We drove to the mountains when we went on vacation. They enjoy spending time together. It occurred to John that he took a wrong turn.
Practice the following sentences on your own. These sentences all contain unstressed pronoun subjects. Use the above guidelines to help you with stressing. 1. I can’t remember where I put my keys. 2. He asked for a pen, but I didn’t have one. 3. They walked ahead of the group when they shouldn’t have. 4. She knocked on the door of the antique shop. 5. You forgot to ask your mother what she wanted at the grocery store.
b. Stressed subject pronoun: Stress the subject pronoun (I, you, he, she, it, we, they) when you need clarification as to whom is doing something or to emphasize the pronoun.
Look at the following examples. The stressed subject pronouns are in red and other stressed words are in bold print.
I want to go with you. Stressing “I” clarifies the “who” in this sentence. It is “I” that wants to go, not “him” or “her.” No other words are stressed because they are not considered important.
They told you that. Stressing “they” indicates that the “who” is the only important word. It is stressed for clarification. It is “they” who told you that, not “we” or “you.” No other words are stressed because they do not affect the meaning of the sentence.
I think John looks great! The pronoun “I” is stressed to emphasize the person’s feelings, and the adjective “great” is stressed to emphasize the positive feeling about how John looks.
He took the mail out of the mailbox. In this sentence, the subject pronoun “he” and the noun “mailbox” are the only two important words in the sentence.
She thinks her daughter is beautiful. The pronoun “she” is stressed to emphasize the specific person, and “beautiful” is stressed to emphasize how the daughter’s looks.
You showed me where the cottage was, not James. In this sentence, the pronoun “you” is stressed for clarification. It was not James that showed me the cottage, it was “you.”
Practice the following sentences containing stressed subject pronouns, which are in red. Which other words, if any, should you stress in each sentence?
1. He complained because his hamburger was too rare. 2. We don’t know how to find John’s house. 3. You should call 911 immediately. 4. They told me about the accident earlier today. 5. She is the person you need to contact.
2. Direct Object Pronoun: (me, him, her, it, you, us, them): A direct object pronoun is a pronoun that comes after the verb and tells “what”. It refers to a noun that was previously mentioned. Typically, they are only stressed when for clarification purposes when someone has misinterpreted our message, didn’t understand it, or didn’t hear it correctly.
Look at the following examples. The unstressed object pronouns are in red and other stressed words are in bold print.
John saw her leaving the office today. In this sentence, the word “her” is the direct object and comes just after the verb “saw”. It is not stressed.
I didn’tdo it. The direct object in this sentence is “it” and comes just after the main verb “do" and it is not stressed.
Come and see me when you have time. This sentence is in the form of a command, so the subject “you” is implied. The word “me” is the direct object and comes just after the verbs “come” and “see.” It is unstressed.
The policearrested them this morning. This sentence has one verb “arrested”. The direct object “them” comes directly after it and is not stressed.
We didn’t see it happen. In this sentence, the verb is “see”, and the direct object is “it”. Notice that the negative "didn't" as well as the two verbs "see" and "happen" are stressed. The direct object pronoun is not stressed.
Practice the following sentences containing unstressed direct pronouns, which are in red. What other words in each sentence do you think you should stress? 1. John wanted her to go out on a date with him. 2. My manager trained them on our phone system last week. 3. Sometimes my mother lets us use my dad’s computer to play games. 4. That police officer ordered me to step out of my car. 5. I asked you a question.
Examples of when direct object pronouns are stressed. Stress the object pronoun when you need to clarify meaning or eliminate misunderstandings.
In the following example sentences, the object pronoun is unstressed. Each one is in bold print as the stressed word in the sentence.
I gave him my credit card. In this sentence, the stressed direct object “him” comes just after the verb. Because it is stressed, the sentence is now all about the direct object and clarifies which person I gave my credit card to.
I thought John told us to follow her to the party. This sentence is a little bit longer and has two direct object pronouns stressed.
Mary wanted us to drive her, not you. From the words stressed in this sentence, we know that “Mary” (the subject) is important, the direct object “us” is important, and clarifying the negative “not you” clarifies that this person is not involved.
We all wanted them to visit. In this sentence, we have two stressed words: “all” and the direct object “them”. This means that we are concerned with the number of people and who will visit.
John’s sister wrecked her car, not his. This sentence clarifies for us that it is not John’s car, but John’s sister’s car that is wrecked. We stress the pronouns to make sure that this is understood.
Practice the following sentences containing stressed object pronouns, which are in bold print and are in red. What other words in each sentence, if any, should be stressed? 1. Mom said she told you to wash the dishes. 2. We all picked her as our first choice. 3. I want to know what Janet told him about our new plans. 4. Jack invited only Janet and you to the meeting. 5. I decided that he should help me with my groceries.
3. Reflexive pronouns (myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, themselves) Think of these as the “self” pronouns. They are all made up of two words, which means they are compound words, and the second word is always “self” or “selves”. For stressing, we usually stress the second part of the word “self” or “selves.” The only time we would stress the first part of the pronoun (my, your, her, him, it, our, them) is when we need to clarify something that is unclear.
A reflexive pronoun refers back to the subject. It can function as the direct object of a verb or as the object of a preposition.
Let’s take a look at some examples of how we can use reflexive pronouns. In the following sentences, the reflexive pronouns are in red, and the stressed words are in bold print.
a. Unstressed reflexive pronoun used as a direct object of the verb The reflexive pronoun is usually unstressed when it is the object of the verb. This means it comes just after the verb.
In the following examples, the stressed words are in bold print, and the reflexive pronouns are highlighted in yellow.
My son really hurt himself when he fell off his bike. In this sentence, the reflexive pronoun "himself" refers to "my son".
She picked herself up after the accident. In this sentence, the reflexive pronoun "herself" refers to the subject pronoun "she."
You know yourself better than anyone. Here, the reflexive pronoun "yourself" refers back to the pronoun subject "you."
We considered ourselves very lucky that we didn’t get caught in the rain. In this sentence, the direct object pronoun refers to the pronoun subject "we."
John always tellshimself that he is OK. In this sentence, the direct object pronoun "himself" refers to the subject "John."
Practice the following sentences in which the reflexive pronouns are unstressed and in red. What other words should you stress in each sentence? 1. The president of our company gives himself too much credit. 2. I’m going to get myself some new sneakers. 3. She’s driving herself crazy by scratching her bug bites so much. 4. I just tell myself that everything happens for a reason. 5. He said he can’t trust himself with candy in the room.
b. Stressed reflexive pronoun used as the object of a preposition When a reflexive pronoun is used as the object of a preposition, it is often stressed, especially if it comes at the end of a sentence.
In the following examples, the stressed words are in bold print, and the stressed reflexive pronouns are in red.
I can handle it by myself. In this sentence, it is the stressed reflexive pronoun that is stressed, rather than the subject pronoun "I."
She only works this hard for herself. Emphasizing the reflexive pronoun "herself" brings attention to the subject "she."
I can’t do that by myself. In this sentence, the reflexive pronoun "myself" is emphasized.
My daughter bought a house for her husband and herself. In this sentence, the reflexive pronoun "herself" is stressed to emphasize the subject "my daughter."
My neighbors take vacations by themselves. In this sentence, stressing the reflexive pronoun "themselves" helps to emphasize the subject "my neighbors."
Practice the following sentences in which the stressed reflexive pronouns are in red. What other words should you stress in each sentence?? 1. Don’t try to do the entire project by yourself. 2. He is in charge of mailing out the Christmas card all by himself. 3. My friend told me to just drive there by myself. 4. Try not to think of just yourself all the time. 5. The TV just turned off all by itself.
c. Sometimes reflexive pronouns used as the object of a preposition are not stressed. In the following examples, the stressed words are in bold print, and the reflexive pronouns are in red.
He always makes a fool of himself at parties. In this sentence, the reflexive pronoun "himself" refers to the pronoun subject "he" and is unstressed.
Janet takes good care of herself and eats right. In this sentence, the reflexive pronoun "herself" refers to the subject "Janet" and is not stressed.
You know what is happening with yourself before anyone else does. In this sentence, the reflexive pronoun "yourself" refers to the pronoun subject "you" and is unstressed.
We can’t predict everything by ourselves. In this sentence, the reflexive pronoun "ourselves" refers to the subject "we" and is unstressed.
Those people over there sometimes meet by themselves at lunchtime. In this sentence, the reflexive pronoun "themselves" refers to the subject "the people" and is unstressed.
Practice the following sentences in which unstressed reflexive pronouns are used as the object of a preposition. You need to determine which words in each sentence should be stressed. 1. He drives to work by himself every day. 2. My co-workers get upset with themselves when they make mistakes. 3. Andy and Frank were proud of themselves for being nominated salesmen of the month. 4. My friend's daughter was disappointed with herself for failing her exam. 5. Even though Mark got an A on his test, he was still not happy with himself.
4. Intensive Pronouns (myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, themselves) Intensive pronouns are the same words as reflexive pronouns. They are used to emphasize the subject and are usually stressed.
Look at the following examples. The intensive pronouns are in red and the stressed words are in bold print.
I myself studied at Harvard. In this sentence, the intensive pronoun is "myself" which emphasizes the pronoun subject "I."
Mary, you yourself are an accomplished guitarist. In this sentence, the intensive pronoun is "yourself" which emphasizes the subject "Mary". Because the person is talking directly to Mary, we can also use the pronoun subject "you" for additional emphasis.
The presidenthimself came to our city. In this sentence, the intensive pronoun is "himself" which emphasizes the subject "the president."
My manager herself is going to do a presentation. In this sentence, the intensive pronoun "herself" emphasizes the feminin subject "my manager"
The dog itselfhas a beautiful coat. When referencing animals, we often use the third person pronoun "it". In this sentence, the intensive pronoun "itself" is used to emphasize the subject "the dog."
Practice the following sentences in which intensive reflexive pronouns are in bold print. Which other words should be stressed in each sentence? 1. We ourselves are just about to leave. 2. You yourselves have a gorgeous home. 3. Our neighbors themselves should tell you, not me. 4. I myself would rather stay home. 5. Jack himself would be the best man for the job.