Children aged 3, 4, and 5 years old were given sentences to act out in which the presence or absence of stress on a pronoun was critical to the reference of the pronoun. They were then divided up into three groups based on their proficiency in imitating sentences. Performance on unstressed pronouns was uniformly high in all three groups. Stressed pronouns were acted out like unstressed pronouns by the least advanced group, and improvement was radical from the lowest to highest groups. In the sentences used, unstressed pronouns could be interpreted by a natural cognitive strategy, in which the least change is required in the roles of the sentence actors. Early performance can be accounted for by use of this strategy. Interpretation of stressed pronouns required reversal of the role of one actor, which the less advanced children evidently found difficult. Results are discussed for their significance for theories of pronominal reference.