Definition: A pronoun usually refers to something already mentioned in a sentence or piece of text. A pronoun is a word that substitutes a noun or noun phrase used to
prevent repetition of the noun to which they refer. One of the most common pronouns is it.
Rule for Pronouns
A pronoun must agree with the noun it refer. Therefore, if the noun is singular, therefore the pronoun must be singular; if the noun is plural, use a plural pronoun; if the noun is feminine, use a feminine pronoun, and so on.
• The train was late, it had been delayed.
• The trains were late, they had been delayed.
Types of pronouns
English Pronouns are divided into sub-categories. These are Demonstrative, Personal, Reflexive, Possessive, Interrogative, Negative, Reciprocal, Relative and Quantifier
Type About Example
Personal Pronoun Takes the place of a specific or named person or thing. I, you, he, she, etc..
Reflexive Pronoun Adds information by pointing back to a noun or another pronoun. myself, yourself, etc..
Demonstrative Pronoun Points out a specific person, place, or thing. this, that, these, those
Relative pronoun Begins a subordinate clause and relates the clause to a word in the main clause. who, whose, which, that, etc..
Interrogative Pronoun Is used to ask a question. who, what, where, etc..
Possessive Pronoun Used to substitute a noun and to show possession or ownership. mine, yours, his, etc..
Negative Pronoun nothing, no, nobody, etc..
Reciprocal pronoun Express an interchangeable or mutual action or relationship. each other, one another
Quantifier some, any, something, much, etc.
Definition: Demonstrative pronouns are pronouns that point to specific things. "This, that, these, those, none and neither" are Demonstrative Pronouns that substitute nouns when the nouns they replace can be understood from the context. At the same time, to indicate whether they are close or far, in space or time, from the speaker in the moment of speaking. They also indicate whether they are replacing singular or plural words. Some grammars describe them as members of the class of function words called "determiners", since they identify nouns and other nominals.
• "This" (singular) and "These" (plural) refer to an object or person NEAR the speaker.
• "That" (singular) and "Those" (plural) refer to an object or person further AWAY.
• This is unbelievable.
* In this example, "this" can refer to an object or situation close in space or in time to the speaker.
• That is unbelievable.
* In this example, "that" can refer to an object or situation farther in space or in time to the speaker.
• These are unbelievable.
* In this example, "these" can refer to some objects close in space or in time to the speaker.
• Those are unbelievable.
* In this example, "those" can refer to some objects farther in space or in time to the speaker.
• Before the noun.
• Before the word 'one'.
• Before an adjective + noun.
• Alone when the noun is 'understood'
• Who owns that house? (distant - physical )
• Is this John's house? (near - physical )
• That's nothing to do with me.. (distant - psychological )
• This is a nice surprise! (near - psychological )
Definition: An interrogative pronoun is a pronoun used in order to ask a question. Some of them refer only to people, like "who" and others refer to people and objects, etc like "what". They do not distinguish between singular and plural, so they only have one form. Interrogative pronouns produce information questions that require more than a "yes" or "no" answer.
• What is her phone number?
• What do you want?
Interrogative pronouns are: What, Which, Who, Whose, Whom. In addition, these pronouns may take the suffixes -ever and -soever.
As we can see in the next table, these pronouns could act as a subject, object or possessive in a sentence.
Subject Object Possessive
who whom whose
WHAT can be used to ask about objects or people.
• What time is it?
• What is your name?
• What do you want?
WHICH can be used to ask about objects or people.
• Which chair are you talking about?
• Which jumper do you like?
• Which is your mother?
WHO can be used to ask about people
• Who are you?
• Which is your mother?
• Who has been sitting in my chair?
WHOSE can be used to ask about a possession relation.
• Whose is this book?
• Whose car did you drive here?
WHOM can be used to ask about people.It is less usual and more formal than "who"
• Whom did you phone?
• For whom will you vote?
NOTE: Either "which" or "what" can also be used as an interrogative adjective, and that "who," "whom," or "which" can also be used as a relative pronoun.
• The man whom she chose will do a wonderful job.
• Who is in charge?
• Which wants to see the dentist first?
• Who wrote the novel Rockbound?
• Whom do you think we should invite?
• What did she say?
Definition: Personal pronouns refer to the person who is doing the action or to whom the action affects. In that way we distinguish two types of personal pronouns: Personal "Subject Pronouns" and Personal "Object Pronouns".
Subject form Object form
Personal Subject Pronouns
We use the Personal Subject Pronouns to refer to the person who is doing the action of the verb or the verb speaks about. A subjective personal pronoun indicates that the pronoun is acting as the subject of the sentence.
• Jhon is listening to music.
=> He listens to music every day.
* In this case, "he" substitutes "Jhon" which is the subject of the sentence.
• Are you the delegates from Malagawatch?
• After many years, they returned to their homeland.
Personal Object Pronouns
We use the Personal Object Pronouns to refer to the person whom the action of the verbs affects. An objective personal pronoun indicates that the pronoun is acting as an object of a verb, compound verb, preposition, or infinitive phrase.
• Seamus stole the selkie's skin and forced her to live with him.
* The objective personal pronoun "her" is the direct object of the verb "forced" and the objective personal pronoun "him" is the object of the preposition "with."
• Deborah and Roberta will meet us at the newest café in the market.
* Here the objective personal pronoun "us" is the direct object of the compound verb "will meet."
• Christopher was surprised to see her at the drag races.
* Here the objective personal pronoun "her" is the object of the infinitive phrase "to see."
A personal pronoun refers to a specific person or thing and changes its form to indicate person, number, gender, and case.
Definition: We use the Possessive Pronouns when we want to substitute a group of words that are indicating a possession relation.
• This is my book.
* In this example, we can substitute "my book" for the possessive pronoun "mine". => This is mine.
• This is your disk and that's mine.
* Mine substitutes the word disk and shows that it belongs to me.
A possessive pronoun indicates it is acting as a subject complement or a subject of the sentence.
• The smallest gift is mine.
This is yours.
* Here the possessive pronouns acts as a subject complement.
• His is on the kitchen counter.
Theirs will be delivered tomorrow.
Ours is the green one on the corner.
* Here the possessive pronoun acts as the subject of the sentence.
Note : Possessive pronouns are very similar to possessive adjectives.
• You can borrow my book as long as you remember that it's not yours.
=> The possessive "my" depends on the noun "book."
=> The possessive "yours" is a pronoun which stands in the place of "your book".
• When you drive to Manitoba, will you take your car or theirs?
=> The possessive "your" depends on the noun "car."
=> The possessive pronoun, "theirs," stands in the place of the noun phrase, "their car."
Definition: We use the relative pronouns to refer to a noun mentioned before and of which we are adding more information. They are used to join two or more sentences and forming in that way what we call "relative sentences".
Who, Whom, That, Which
whoever, whomever, whichever
• People who speak two languages are called bilingual.
* In this example, the relative "who" introduces the relative sentence "speak two languages" that describes or gives more information about the noun "people".
Relative pronouns: Subject or Object
As the relative pronouns relate to another noun preceding it in the sentence, they connect a dependent clause to an antecedent (a noun that precedes the pronoun.) Therefore, relative pronouns acts as the subject or object of the dependent clause.
• The chef who won the competition studied in Paris.
* Here, "who" relates back to (or is relative to) the noun "Chef". "Who" also acts as the subject of the dependent clause and the verb "won".
=> The dependent clause: who won the competition.
=> The independent clause: The chef studied in Paris.
• The shirt that Carl bought has a stain on the pocket.
* Here, "that" relates back to (or is relative to) the noun "shirt". "That" is also the object of the verb "bought".
=> The dependent clause is: that Carl bought.
=> The independent clause: The shirt has a stain on the pocket.
Referring to people: Who, Whom, Whoever, Whomever
These pronouns take a different case depending on whether the relative pronoun is a subject or an object in the dependent clause.
1. Subjective case
Use the subjective case when these relative pronouns are the subject (initiating the action) of the dependent clause: Who, Whoever
Negotiations were not going smoothly between the two leaders, who made no bones about not liking each other.
* "Who" relates back to the noun "leaders" and is the subject of the dependent clause and the verb "made".
Most workers, whoever was not employed by the auto manufacturer, toiled at one of the millions of little minnow companies.
* "Whoever" relates back to the noun "workers" and is the subject of the dependent clause and the verb "was employed".
2. Objective case
Use the objective case when these relative pronouns are the object (receiving the action) of the dependent clause: Whom, Whomever
This is the approach taken by journalists, whom some consider to be objective.
* "Whom" relates back to the noun "journalists" and is the object of the verb "consider". The subject of the dependent clause is "some".
The three representatives, whomever the committee chooses, should be at the meeting tomorrow.
* "Whomever" relates back to the noun representatives and is the object of the verb "chooses". The subject of the dependent clause is "Committee".
Referring to a place, thing or idea: Which, That
When using relative pronouns for places, things or ideas, rather than determining case, the writer must decide whether the information in the dependent clause is essential to the meaning of the independent clause or simply additional information.
When information is critical to the understanding of the main clause, use That as the appropriate relative pronoun and do not set the information off by commas.
• Russian generals have delivered a message that is difficult to ignore.
* "That" relates back to the noun "message" and is necessary for the reader to know what "message" the sentence is about.
• There is another factor that obviously boosts the reputation of both of these men.
* "That" relates back to the noun "factor" and is necessary for the reader to know what "factor" the sentence is about.
When information is not critical to the understanding of the main clause, use "Which" as the appropriate relative pronoun and set the information off by commas.
• The toughest intramural fight of all for Clinton was the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he undertook a full year before the 1994 election.
* "Which" relates back to the noun "agreement" and the information following it is not necessary for the reader to know what "agreement" the sentence is about.
• Clinton refused to head toward the center on affirmative action and abortion, which are the two most sacred issues to the traditional liberal wing of the party.
* "Wich" relates back to the noun "affirmative action and abortion" and the information following it is not necessary for the reader to know what "affirmative action and abortion" the sentence is about.
When referring to more than one place, thing or idea use these relative pronouns: Whatever, Whichever
• The three approaches, whichever works is fine, produce a more ambiguous picture of a man.
* "Whichever" relates to the noun "approaches" and the information contained within the commas is additional, not critical information.
• Any excessive profits, whatever exceeded accepted limits, would attract the notice of representatives.
* "Whatever" relates to the noun "profits" and the information contained within the commas is additional, not critical information.
Definition: We use the reflexive pronouns to indicate that the person who realizes the action of the verb is the same person who receives the action. Reflexive pronouns are identical in form to intensive pronouns.
• I cut my hair myself.
* In this example "I" does the action of cutting the hair and at the same time "I" gets the action of the hair being cut.
• We defended ourselves brilliantly.
* In this example the reflexive pronoun "ourselves" refers back to the subject of the sentence.
• John talks to himself when he is nervous.
* In this example "Himself" refers to John.
Reflexive pronouns always act as objects not subjects, and they require an interaction between the subject and an object.
• Because she was not hungry when the cake was served, Ellen saved herself a piece.
* In the independent clause, "Ellen" is the subject and "herself" is a reflexive pronoun acting as the indirect object. This sentence is grammatically correct.
• Jhon and myself are going to the movie.
* In this sentence, "Jhon" and "myself" are the subjects. Reflexive pronouns cannot be subjects. This sentence is grammatically incorrect.
Care must be taken to identify whether the noun is singular or plural and choose the pronoun accordingly.
• Nor is she shy about giving herself credit for it.
• We gave ourselves a second chance to complete the course.
• Did they lock themselves out of the house again?
• Give yourselves a pat on the back for a job well done.
Note: The reflexive pronoun can also be used to give more emphasis to the subject or object (intensive pronoun).
• I did it myself.
* I want to emphasise the fact that I did it.
• He washed himself.
• She looked at herself in the mirror.
• Diabetics give themselves insulin shots several times a day.
• After the party, I asked myself why I had faxed invitations to everyone in my office building.
• Richard usually remembered to send a copy of his e-mail to himself.
Definition: We use the reciprocal pronouns to indicate that two people can carry out an action and get the consequences of that action at the same time. There are two reciprocal pronouns:
They enable you to simplify sentences where the same general idea is expressed two or more times.
• On their wedding day Jhon gave Mary a gold ring and Mary gave Jhon a gold ring.
* Using the reciprocal pronoun, "each other", this could be rewritten:
=> On their wedding day Mary and Jhon gave each other gold rings.
• Peter and Mary kissed each other.
* In this example "each other" indicates that both people involved in the action of "kissing" got the result, kisses, at the same time.
If you need to refer to more than two people, say the students in a classroom, then we could use the reciprocal pronoun, "one another".
• The students in this classroom cooperate with one another.
• The teachers gathered to congratulate one another on the year's conclusion.