How to Avoid Pronoun Shifts

Pronoun shifts occur when you shift from one form to another either within the same sentence or within the same paragraph.

"I am studying English, and I want to be an instructor when I graduate. In my program, there are so many courses that you cannot decide which ones to take."

Here we have a shift from first person ‘I’ to second person ‘you’. This is a pronoun shift and is a common mistake students make when working with pronouns. To fix this shift, we would need to use ‘I’ instead of ‘you’.

If we had only studied harder, one could have passed that test easily.

Here we flip from plural ‘we’ to singular ‘one’. We would fix it by using ‘we’ in both places.

The best way to avoid shifts in pronouns is to pay attention to the way you are writing:
If you are talking about yourself and your actions only then everything should be first person- “I” “my” “me”. If you are talking to the reader or another person and saying “you” then it needs to stay “you.” Finally, if you are writing in third person keep the terms similar- if you use ‘us’ and ‘we’ which includes yourself do no start using ‘they’ and ‘them’ and vice versa.

We should have studied harder for the test; then they could have done better. - Wrong
We should have studied harder for the test; then we could have done better. - Right!




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