Expected behavior for pronouns in commands (informal survey)

I7 does a lot of awesome stuff with pronouns, as discussed in 16.18:

…and there is a spiffy phrase, “set pronouns from [object]”, that can be used to update the pronouns.

But I don’t use pronouns when playing IF, and I don’t believe any of my usual beta testers use pronouns when playing (at least, I can’t remember ever seeing pronouns in their transcripts.) So I wanted to check in and see how much I should worry about this.

  1. Do you use pronouns when playing IF?
  2. If so, how much will it bother you if a pronoun doesn’t update the way you expect it to? (negligible annoyance, minor annoyance, major annoyance, flip a table?)

I use them sometimes. I am moderately annoyed when Inform breaks the rule that you quote above – and it does, by default, on every LOOK and INVENTORY command – but there’s nothing I can do about it except mutter.

As an author, I try to remember to call “set pronouns from…” whenever one game object replaces another (and is the same object in the player’s mind). I probably don’t do this reliably, though.

I use pronouns a lot myself. I find that if they behave unexpectedly, it’s usually the result of a minor bug - an object hasn’t been marked as plural-named, or something along those lines. It’s a bit of a nuisance, not the end of the world. I don’t think it’s a good idea for LOOK and INVENTORY to change the pronouns, as they do by default in Inform, but if I LOOK or INV it usually marks a break in my train of thought (and hence the pronoun referents in my head) anyway.

If you don’t want LOOK and INVENTORY to update the pronouns, you can include Plurality by Emily Short and add “Use manual pronouns” to the source.

There was some discussion last year about if/how people use pronouns that would probably interest you: https://intfiction.org/t/do-you-use-the-word-it-when-playing-if-adventure-games/4514/1

Lots of pronouns here too. But it’s almost always broken for plural-named objects, i.e., “shelves” are too often categorised as “it”. I think I said that in the other thread that Emeral very relevantly linked to.

You’re right, it does! I missed this thread the first time around, thanks for pointing it out.

I use them all the time, especially “it”. As in:

I only use “it”, and only with long-named nouns.

As this is an informal survey, I will give my 2 cents. I actually don’t use pronouns. I’m long-winded and if I “x apple”, I then “take apple”, rather than “take it”. Until this thread, I kinda forgot about using pronouns. :blush:

I actually didn’t realize this feature even existed until fairly recently. I guess I should try to put it to more use, though I don’t mind typing out nouns most of the time. It is more important to me that parsers consistently understand partial names such as “bowl” matching “bowl of sludge.”

cvaneseltine, I took the liberty to add an actual poll to the topic.

zarf and others: is look/inventory breaking pronouns defensible? Or should we ask that the default behaviour be fixed?

Of course it’s defensible. The question is whether “it” should refer to the last object mentioned in the game transcript, or the last object mentioned in the history of the player’s commands. This is purely a matter of convention.

I don’t think I would ever expect the pronouns to refer to the last thing mentioned in my inventory, except perhaps if I’m only carrying one thing at the very beginning of the game. Having pronouns refer to the last thing in a room description… yeah that might make sense.

Same here.

I use pronouns, but I don’t hold it against the game if they point to a different object than what I expect. More annoying is if objects have wrong pronouns (plural things not responding to “them” or people responding only to “it” for example). That’s why it’s important to mark plural things as plural and people as people in the code, even if it didn’t have any other effect.

So Bainespal just sent me his transcript of playing Vanishing Conjurer and I realize I’m a flagrant culprit in making sure my pronouns aren’t set right.


I’d have thought that would work. Are they plural-named?

That’s what I mean, I didn’t set that right. Had I done so, it would’ve understood him.


Minor annoyance.

I frequently use “it” or “them;” one of my more common sentences is GET [LAMP] THEN X IT. I sometimes also use “him” or “her” for characters with long or hard-to-spell names, but usually only if there isn’t a convenient short version. (For example: If I can refer to Estenth as “guard” I’ll probably do so; if not, I’ll try “him.” If neither works, I’ll mutter about how all guards should have names like “Tom” or “Bob.”)

Usually a minor annoyance, but it becomes less minor with lots of fiddly disambiguation or when I have to look up the spelling of a word every time I type it.