We recently had a customer ask us for more materials on the pronouns we and us. Her students had completed our Pronouns 1 lesson, but they were still having trouble keeping we and us straight. The key to distinguishing between subject and object pronouns is sentence position. The following tips will work for we, us, and any other subject/object pronoun confusion!
Subject pronouns (I, you, he, she, we, they) come before the main verb, either at the beginning of a sentence or at the beginning of a clause.
1. Before a verb (usually at the beginning of a sentence):
- We like our new house.
- We can’t remember how to get to the library.
- We spoke to our teacher, and we asked if we could go home early today.
2. After a relative pronoun such as that:
- I think that we should get together more often.
- Do you believe that we will succeed?
- We asked that we be seated next to the stage. (Why be and not are? See our blog post on the subjunctive form.)
Note: That is often dropped from the sentence, so students may be confused because they see we following the main verb (which is normally an object position). Tell them that in complex sentences, it is best to look for other verbs as well. If the position is after one verb but before another, it is a subject position, so we is needed.
- We decided we will try that new restaurant. (We decided that we will try that new restaurant.)
Object pronouns (me, you, him, her, us, them) usually come after the main verb. They are often found at the end of a sentence.
1. After a verb:
- She called us.
- Can you remind us later?
- Our boss told us to finish the report.
2. After a preposition:
- He was worried about us.
- They bought this for us.
- It’s up to us to get everything ready on time.
A Note About Let's
Are your students confused by let’s? This is a holdover from Old English that is still commonly used nowadays. It stands for let us and is followed by a base verb. We use let’s when making a suggestion. I tell my students to think of it as a modal-type expression—that way, they will remember to use a base verb with it.
- Let’s go!
- Let’s finish this later.
- Let’s choose a movie to watch.
For more practice on subject and object pronouns, try our Pronouns 1 lesson.