Correct use of English Nouns and Pronouns
1. Words like book, table, flower and apple are “countable nouns”, they are things that can be counted. Such nouns can have plural forms and are used with a/an. Words like ink, milk, gold and wisdom are “uncountable nouns”: they are things that cannot be counted. Normally uncountable nouns do not have plural forms and cannot be used with a/an.
2. The following nouns are usually uncountable in English: advice, news, information, furniture, luggage, work, business, whether, traffic, scenery, paper (= writing material), soap, bread. Most of these are countable in oriental languages and therefore our (students often wrongly use them with a/an and in the plural.
Wrong: He gave me an advice.
Right: He gave me some advice (or: a piece of advice).
Wrong: The sceneries here are very good.
Right: The scenery here is very good.
If you are thinking of one separate item or unit of an uncountable thing, you may say a piece of/a bottle of, etc.
a piece of advice, a piece of work, a piece/bar of soap, a bottle of milk.
3. The use of the Possessive (or Genitive) Case should be confined to the following:
(1) Names of living beings and personified objects;
The Governor’s bodyguards; the lion’s mane; Nature’s laws; Fortune’s favourite.
(2) A few stereotyped phrases;
For conscience’ sake, for goddness’ sake, at his fingers’ ends. out of harm’s way, the boat’s crew.
(3) Nouns of space or time denoting an amount of something; as,
A day’s work, a hand’s breadth, in a year’s time.
4. When two nouns in the possessive case are in apposition the apostrophe with s is added to the last only:
This is my uncle, the engineer’s office.
My brother Aslam’s watch.
5. When one noun is qualified by two possessive nouns both must have the possessive sign, unless joint possession is indicated,
The King and Queen’s journey to Austrailia.
Huntley and Palmer’s biscuits.
6. According to rules, the complement of the verb to be, when it is expressed by a pronoun, should be in the nominative case. Today the use of the nominative form is considered extremely formal and over-correct. We usually use the objective form.
It is me. (Rare: It is I)
It was him.
7. The Object of a verb or of a preposition, when it is a Pronoun, should be in the Objective form; as
Between you and me (not I) affairs look dark.
There is really no difference between you and me.
Let you and me (not I) do it.
He was given great trouble to my father and me (not I).
8. A pronoun directly after than or as is usually in the objective case unless there is a verb after it. If a verb follows it, the nominative form is used.
He is taller than me.
Or: He is taller than I am. (More formal)
I swim better than him.
Or: I swim better that he does. (More formal)
9. A Pronoun must agree with its Antecedent in person, number and gender.
All passengers must show their tickets.
Every man must bear his own burden.
Each of the girls gave her own version of the affair.
10. In referring to anybody, everybody, everyone, anyone, each, etc., the pronoun of the masculine or the feminine, gender is used according to the context; as,
I shall be glad to help everyone of my boys in his studies.
What pronoun should be used to refer back to anybody, everyone, each, etc. when the sex is not determined? Some grammarians recommend that the pronoun of the masculine gender should be used as there is no singular pronoun of the third person to represent both male and female, e.g.,
Anybody can do it if he tries.
Everyone ran as fast as he could.
In present-day English, anybody, everyone, etc. are often followed by a plural pronoun (they/them/their) except in very formal speech or writing.
Anybody can do it if they try.
Everyone ran as fast as they could.
Each of them had their share.
11. The indefinite pronoun one should be used throughout , if used at all:
One cannot be too careful about what one. (not he) says.
One must not boast of one’s own success.
One must use one best efforts if one wishes to succeed.
12. None is construed in the singular or plural as the sense may require:
Did you buy any mangoes? There were none in the market.
Have you brought me a letter? There was none for you.
When the singular equally well expresses the sense, the plural is commonly used:
None of these words are now current.
None of his poems are well known. None but fools have believed it.
13. Anyone should be used when more than two persons or things are spoken of:
She was taller than anyone. (not either) of her five sisters.
14. Each, either, and neither are distributive pronouns calling attention to the individuals forming a collection, and must accordingly be followed by verbs in the singular.
Each of the scholars has (not have) done well.
Neither of them was invited to the party. Neither of the accusations is true.
Either of the roads leads to the railway station.
He asked whether either of the brothers was at home.
15. Be careful to use who (Nominative) and whom (Objective) correctly.
Who (no whom) they were I really cannot specify.
There are some who (not whom) I think are clever.
There are many who (not whom) we know quite well are honest.
Who (not whom) did you say was there?
Who (not whom) do you think she is?
They were a people whom it was not advisable to excite.
Whom do you wish to see?
Who (not whom) do you believe him to be?
Note: that today whom is not usual except in formal English. Who replaces whom in spoken English:
Who did you meet?
Who are you going with?
This is the man who I talked about this morning.
16. When the subject of a verb is a relative pronoun, care should be taken to see that the verb agrees in number and person with the antecedent of the relative:
This is one of the most interesting novels that have (not has) appeared this year.
(The antecedent of that is novels, not one)
It was one of the best speeches that have ever been made in the Parliament.
This is the only one of his poems that is (not are) worth reading.
(Here the antecedent of that is one)
17. A definite word, as the antecedent of the relative pronoun which make the sentences easier to understand than is possible otherwise. Thus the sentence, “His foot slipped, which caused him to fall heavily.” Would be easier reading, and hence better, as:
His foot slipped, and this caused him to fall heavily.
Similarly we should say:
He fell heavily, and this caused him great pain.
18. Sometimes a Pronoun is inserted where it is not required; as
The applicant, being a householder, he is entitled to a vote.
The applicant, being a householder, is entitled to a vote.
Here the Pronoun he is not required.
19. A noun or pronoun in the Possessive case should not be used as the antecedent to a relative pronoun; as,
Do not forget his enthusiasm who brought this movement so far. (Incorrect)
Do not forget the enthusiasm of him who brought this movement so far. (Correct)
20. The relative pronoun is sometimes wrongly omitted when it is the subject of the clause:
He has an impudence would carry him through anything.
He has an impudence that would carry him through anything.
21. When the antecedent is same, the consequent should be as or that.
That is the same man that (or as) we saw yesterday.
I played with the same bat that you did.
22. Pronouns of the third person plural should not be used as antecedents to who and that; as
They that are whole have no need of a physician.
Here those is to be preferred to they.
23. Avoid the use of same as a substitute for the personal pronoun.
When you have examined these patterns please return them (not same) to us.