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A pronoun is traditionally a part of speech in grammar, but many modern linguists call it a type of noun.[1] In English, pronouns are words such as me, she, his, them, herself, each other, it, what.

Pronouns are often used to take the place of a noun, to avoid repeating the noun. For example, instead of saying

  • Tom has a new dog. Tom has named the dog Max and Tom lets the dog sleep by Tom's bed.

it is easier to say

  • Tom has a new dog. He has named him Max and he lets him sleep by his bed.

When a pronoun replaces a noun, the noun is called the antecedent. For example, in the sentence: The dog that was walking down the street, the relative pronoun is the word that referring back to the antecedent, the word 'dog'. In the sentence The spy who loved me, the relative pronoun is the word 'who' and its antecedent is the word 'spy'.

Differences and similarities to nouns[change | change source]

Pronouns are different from common nouns because pronouns normally do not come after articles or other determiners. For example, people do not say "the it". Pronouns rarely come after adjectives. They are also different because many of them change depending on how they are used. For example, "we" is a 'subject' in grammar, but the word changes to us when used as an object.

Pronouns are the same as nouns because they both change for number (singular & plural), case (subject, object, possessive, etc.), and gender (male, female, animate, inanimate, etc.) Nouns and pronouns can be used in almost all the same places in sentences, and they name the same kinds of things: people, objects, etc. Even though they can not normally come after determiners, or adjectives, neither can proper nouns.

Kinds of pronouns[change | change source]

There are four kinds of pronouns: personal, reciprocal, interrogative, and relative.

Kinds of English pronouns
i personal you love them Your sister loves herself
ii reciprocal we like each other we are looking at one another
iii interrogative who is there? what happened?
iv relative the person who saw it the time which you told me

Personal pronouns in English[change | change source]

This table shows all the personal pronouns in English that are commonly used today.

Personal pronouns in English
Singular Plural
Subject Object Possessive Reflexive Subject Object Possessive Reflexive
First I me my, mine myself we us our, ours ourselves
Second you you your, yours yourself you you your, yours yourselves
Third Feminine she her her, hers herself they them their, theirs themselves
Masculine he him his himself
Neuter it it its itself

A subject pronoun can replace a noun that is the subject of a sentence. Refer to the table above; the subject pronouns are: I, You, He, She, It, We, They. An object pronoun can replace a noun that is the object of a sentence. A possessive pronoun shows who or what a noun belongs to.

Another type of personal pronoun is called the 'reflexive pronoun'. Reflexive pronouns are the words ending in '-self' or '-selves', such as: myself, itself, themselves.

"It" and its other forms "its", and "itself" only refer to objects, not people. "They" and its other forms "them", "their", and "theirs" can be used as a singular, for a person whose gender is unknown at the time, or for a person who does not identify with either the "she/her" or "he/him" pronouns. For example: "The patient will be told how much they will be required to pay."

References[change | change source]

  1. Huddleston R. & Pullum G.K. 2002. The Cambridge Grammar of the English language. Cambridge University Press.