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What Is A Pronoun?
What is a pronoun in English grammar? One of the nine parts of speech in the English language is the pronoun. A pronoun is a word that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase. Pronouns help keep our writing varied. Without pronouns, we would have to constantly repeat the same noun over and over again to tell a story. For example, if we wanted to write a story about Mary we would constantly have to repeat her name.
- Mary went to the store to buy a shirt. Mary picked up a blue shirt to go with Mary’s jacket.
You could use alternative appellations to make the text more varied. However, this could confuse the reader. You reader may think that the two names you use are different entities entirely. For this reason, we use pronouns for noun substitutions.
- Mary went to the store to buy a shirt. She picked up a blue shirt to go with her jacket.
Using she and her makes it clear that Mary is being referenced. There is no ambiguity.
In the most simple terms, a pronoun is a word which takes the position of a noun. One of the most commonly recognised forms of the pronoun are names of people, for example, John, Jill, Mary or Peter. However, a pronoun could also be one of the following words:
A pronoun is used instead of a noun or noun phrase in a sentence. A pronoun may take place of the name of a person, place or thing.
Pronoun examples: I, me, we, they, you, he, she, it, yours, himself, ourselves, its, my, that, this, those, us, who, whom…
There are many more examples of pronouns, and you might think of them as pointing towards possession. As we mentioned, the pronoun is used as a way of replacing a noun, take a look at the following sentence:
- The couch is large, the cupboard is heavy.
There is no need to use the word couch in the second part of the sentence, therefore it could be replaced with a pronoun now that we recognise what item is being talked about, take a look at the modified sentence which uses the pronoun it.
- The couch is large, it is heavy.
We see pronouns in the English language every day. They help to make our texts more interesting. To understand how to use a pronoun properly you need to be familiar with the differences between different types of pronouns.
Below find a list of common pronouns and the main categories in which they belong.
- Reflexive: myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, themselves, yourselves, and ourselves
- Personal: subjective (he/ she, I, you and they); objective (me, you, her/ him, it, them, and us); possessive( hers/his, mine, yours, its, ours, and theirs)
- Relative: whom, that, who, and which
- Indefinite: all, any, anybody, everybody, everyone, another
- Demonstrative: this, that, these, and those
- Interrogative: who, what which, and what
- Intensive: myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, themselves, yourselves, and ourselves
An antecedent, a noun or noun phrase, provides context for a pronoun. The antecedent allows readers to know what a particular pronoun is referencing. For example, it can refer to many different nouns: a garden hose, a shed, or almost any other noun you may need to mention.
You will find the antecedents in the examples below italicized. The pronouns are in bold.
- Mary decided that she would drive down to visit her grandmother.
- The sun smiled while it ducked under the clouds.
Sometimes a writer will not explicitly need to include an antecedent. If the context of a sentence remains clear an antecedent is not necessary. If you know who is speaking, the pronouns I, me, and you can be clearly understood.
Technically, you can place a pronoun before an antecedent. Most people choose not to do this because it can confuse the reader.
- I love it! My beautiful yellow jacket makes me happy.
Types of Pronouns (with Pronoun Examples)
English Pronouns can be divided into several categories: personal, indefinite, reflexive, reciprocal, possessive, demonstrative, interrogative, reciprocal and relative.
We briefly discussed some of the different words that are classed as pronouns, however there are also different types of pronoun. Most often, pronouns fall into one of nine categories. We will now take a look at each of these.
This type of pronoun is used to refer to a person, in this category you will see words such as I, we, you, they, he, she, …
- I have green eyes.
- They are coming to my house.
- You are my friend.
There are two types of personal pronouns: subject and object.
When the person or thing is the subject of the sentence, subject pronouns are used.
Subject pronoun list: I, you, he, she, it, we, they.
Subject pronoun examples:
- I like to watch TV, but he does not.
- You cannot judge a tree by its bark.
- She struck him on the nose.
- He studies hard to pass the exam.
Object pronouns are used when the person or thing is the object of the sentence.
Object pronoun list: me, you, him, her, it, us, you, them.
- Sophia likes me but not him.
- John will call you soon.
- Don’t tell her the truth.
- I helped him pull his boots off.
The reflexive pronoun will end in -self or -selves and is used in reference to another pronoun. Words within the category are himself, herself, themselves, yourself/ves, myself, itself.
- He takes care of himself.
- She can do it by herself.
- You could travel by yourself.
In English, reflexive pronouns are used when a person or thing acts on itself.
Reflexive pronoun list: myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves.
- She tried it herself.
- Tom hurt himself.
In English they all end in –self or –selves and must refer to a noun phrase elsewhere in the same clause.
In English, possessive pronouns are used to indicate possession or ownership. They are: mine, yours, his, hers, ours, yours, theirs.
Possessive pronoun list: mine, yours, his, hers, ours, yours, theirs.
- Do you see that woman over there? Her dog is very friendly.
- Is that your house? No, ours is the one beside it.
- his is my laptop. It’s mine.
- These books are mine, not yours.
- This is my brother ‘s book. It’s his.
This type of pronoun is used to indicate something, the words in the category are these, those, that, this.
- These are the shoes that I am going to wear.
- He likes the green flowers but he prefers those red ones over there.
- I would like that one.
The demonstrative pronouns are the same words as the demonstrative adjectives (this, that, these, and those). They often distinguish their targets by pointing or some other indication of position. They can be either near or far in distance or time, specifically.
Demonstrative pronoun list: this, that, these, those.
- This is an enormous field.
- Can you see that?
- These are delicious cookies.
The indefinite pronoun is used to talk about something which is not specific. Words in the category are some, all, few, none, either, one, nobody, both, each, anyone, several etc.
- Nobody is going to the party.
- There are several people in my class.
- I like both of these photos.
An indefinite pronoun is a pronoun that refers to non-specific beings, objects, or places. Indefinite Pronouns can also function as other parts of speech too, depending on context.
Indefinite Pronoun List: another, anybody/ anyone, anything, each, either, enough, everybody/ everyone, everything,…
- I don’t want anyone to see it.
- Is there anything in that box?
- You can’t blame him for everything.
- Each company is fighting to protect its own commercial interests.
- Much has happened since we met.
- No one can cope with her in English.
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