Pronoun Acquisition: When do children develop pronouns?
As children develop language, they naturally make pronoun errors as part of the learning process. Most of the time, these errors are age-appropriate. Some children will not fully master all pronouns until the age of 4. Pronouns typically develop in a predictable order. See the the pronoun acquisition chart below for the age ranges in which children typically develop pronouns.
•Between 12-26 months of age, children will use the pronouns I (to refer the themselves) and it.
•Between 27-30 months, children will acquire the pronouns my, me, mine, and you.
•Between 31-34 months, children will use your, she, he, your, and we.
•Between 35-40 months, the pronouns they, us, hers, his, them and her are acquired.
•Between 41-46 months, children will use its, our, him, myself, yourself, ours, their, and theirs.
•At 47+ months, the pronouns herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves are acquired.
Children understand the meaning behind a pronoun before they begin using it in their speech. For example, a child will likely understand that “they” indicates more than one person before they consistently use the pronoun “they” in a sentence or phrase. A pronoun is considered “mastered” when a child uses it correctly 80% of the time during spontaneous or unprompted speech. In order to help your child with pronoun acquisition, we recommend modeling accurate pronoun in your own speech. So many of us (I’m guilty as well) will use third person when talking to our babies and toddlers (i.e. “mommy will get it”). If we make an effort to accurately use pronouns, it will make pronoun development easier for your child.
Considerations for Teaching Pronoun Acquisition
Keep in mind that pronouns should be taught with respect to an individuals identifying gender. Avoiding gender stereotypes when our children are young will model respect for all people. As children get older, conversations about pronoun use involves more than just grammar.
In order to assist your child with pronoun acquisition, try one of the following strategies when they make pronoun errors. Keep your tone light and fun.
•Repeat the error back as a question, indicating that you’re questioning if they meant to say it that way (e.g. “Me do it?”)
•Ask your child to pair gender with the appropriate he/she/they pronoun (e.g. “Is that a boy or a girl? Should we say ‘he is running’ or ‘she is running’?”)
•Correct the error for your child (e.g. “Oh, you mean ‘He is eating’.”)
•Model the correct pronoun and have your child repeat what you say (e.g. “You try… ‘I do it’.”).
Adapted from Hass & Owens (1985); Huxley (1970); Morehead & Ingram (1973); Waterman & Schatz (1982); and Wells (1985).
Teletherapy or In-Home Speech Therapy for Pronoun Acquisition
While most children develop pronouns independently, some children will need assistance. Children with expressive and receptive language disorders often have difficulty with this aspect of grammar. When a child has difficulty understand or producing pronouns, a consultation with a speech language pathologist is recommended. Teletherapy or in-home speech therapy are easy and convenient way to connect with our therapy team to determine whether your child would benefit from speech therapy for pronoun development.
If you have concerns about your child’s pronoun acquisition and development we would be happy to give you specific recommendations. Schedule a free phone consultation or click the link below to inquire about therapy for your child.
TherapyWorks has built a large network of therapists with a variety of backgrounds, all of whom hold a masters or doctorate degree in their field and have significant experience working with children with speech and language delays and disorders. Our extensive talent pool enables us to thoughtfully match each child with a therapist that has the right training and experience based on that child’s specific needs. The result is effective, successful therapy.