Pronouns: Teaching Implcations

Pronoun confusion:

  • Pronouns play an important role in maintaining cohesion in a text and some writers do not manage to control their use of pronouns sufficiently to sustain the cohesion. Typically, the personal pronoun is over-used creating confusion over which noun it is intended to replace. Below are two examples of children's writing: the first from a Key Stage 1 writer and the second from a Key Stage 3 writer to exemplify this confusion.
They got in their boat and went across the sea where they saw some whales they were afraid and wanted to go home but they soon disappeared.

Who are 'they'? Is it the whales who were afraid or 'they'? Who disappeared, the whales or 'they'?

Romeo asked the apothecary to sell him some poison but he did not want to in case he committed suicide.

Confusion over 'he' - was it the apothecary who was going to commit suicide?

Narrative voice:

  • Another function performed by pronouns is to establish the narrative voice in a text. Teaching pupils to recognise first and third person narratives is an important way to begin to explore the different effects of different narrative voices. Similarly, a shift from first person singular to first person plural (I to we) can signal a change in the reader-writer relationship, from a personal comment or reflection to one which attempts to include the reader.

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