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Pronoun

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English

A pronoun is a word that can replace a noun or a noun phrase in a sentence. Pronouns are a subcategory of nouns. Pronouns refer to either a noun that has previously been mentioned or a general noun that does not need to be specified. They can help to prevent repetition.

Examples of pronouns

'Jake drove Jake's new car. Jake was happy with Jake's new purchase. '

This example contains no pronouns; instead, the noun 'Jake' is repeated. Sounds a bit strange, right?

'Jake drove his new car. He was happy with his new purchase. '

The pronouns 'his' and 'he' help to make the second sentence more varied and easy to read. We know that these pronouns refer to Jake as he has previously been mentioned.

The antecedent

This noun that the pronoun refers to is called the antecedent . In the example above the antecedent is 'Jack', as this is the noun that the pronouns 'he' and 'his' refer to. Take a look at some further examples of antecedents:

'I went to the cinema (antecedent). It (pronoun) was great.'

'Leonardo Di Caprio (antecedent) went to the zoo. He (pronoun) didn't like the tigers.'

Here are some examples of nouns replaced by pronouns:

Pronoun examples of pronouns StudySmarterExamples of pronouns (StudySmarter)

Types of pronouns

In this article we will cover the 7 main types of pronoun, these include:

  • Personal pronoun

  • Reflexive pronoun

  • Relative pronoun

  • Possessive pronoun

  • Demonstrative pronoun

  • Indefinite pronoun

  • Interrogative pronoun

What is a personal pronoun?

Personal pronouns are pronouns that are associated with a particular person (or animal). We often substitute the proper name of the person (eg. 'Sarah') for the pronoun so that we don't have to constantly repeat the name of the person. Personal pronouns consist of both subject and object pronouns, which are explained below. We will also group possessive pronouns and reflexive pronouns with personal pronouns as they all refer to specific people, animals, or things.

Subject and object pronouns

Pronouns can also be subjects or objects in a sentence in a similar way to nouns being either the subject or object in a sentence. The basic rule is that the subject is the person or thing doing the action and the object is the person or thing receiving the action .

What is a subject pronoun?

The subject pronoun in the English language is the ' doer '. They are the person, place, thing, or idea that does the action. Subject pronouns consist of the words I, you (singular), he, she, it, we, you (plural), and they.

'He ate my shorts'

For example, in the sentence ' he ate my shorts' the pronoun ' he ' is the subject as he is doing the action ('ate').

'They hugged the old man'

In the sentence ' they hugged the old man' the pronoun ' they ' is the subject as ' they ' are doing the hugging action.

What is an object pronoun?

The object in the English language ' receives ' the action. They are the person, place, thing, or idea that the action is done to. Object pronouns consist of the words me, you (singular), him, her, it, us, you (plural), and them.

'Faye told him to go outside'

Here the pronoun ' him ' is the object as he is receiving the action ('told').

'They didn't clean it'

A more tricky sentence (to challenge your subject / object knowledge) is, 'They didn't clean it'. Here there are two pronouns, however it is the pronoun 'it' that is receiving the action and is therefore the object pronoun. (The pronoun 'they' is therefore the subject as it is doing the action).

What is a possessive pronoun?

Possessive pronouns give information about who possesses the thing (noun) . Possessive pronouns are words like mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, and theirs.

'This jacket is mine '

In this sentence, the possessive pronoun 'mine' indicates that the noun (the jacket) belongs to me.

'The dog is hers '

In this sentence, the possessive pronoun 'hers' indicates that the noun (the dog) belongs to a previously mentioned girl / woman, or someone that is being pointed to.

It is useful to remember that possessive pronouns often replace a possessive noun. For example, the sentence 'It is Sam’s ' becomes 'It is his ' and 'It is Ellie’s ' becomes 'It is hers '.

What is a reflexive pronoun?

Reflexive pronouns refer back to a person or thing. They are used when the same person, animal, or thing is the subject and the object of a sentence. The reflexive pronouns consist of the words myself, yourself, yourself, yourself, yourself, yourself, yourselves, and yourself . An easy way to remember the reflexive pronouns is that they all end in -self or -selves.

'He cut his hair himself '

Here the pronoun refers back to the subject. In other words, the subject 'he' does the action back onto 'himself' so the reflexive pronoun is used.

'I believe in myself '

In this sentence, the reflexive pronoun 'myself' shows that the action (believe) refers back to the subject (I).

Summary of personal pronouns

Here's a summary of the first three types of pronouns (personal pronouns, possessive pronouns, and reflexive pronouns). We have grouped these together as they are all pronouns that normally refer to particular people (or animals).

Pronoun summary of personal pronouns StudySmarterSummary of personal pronouns (StudySmarter)

Pronouns showing person, number, and gender

Confused about all these different 'persons' and 'plurals' in the table? Don't worry, we've got you covered. Here is a brief summary of what they mean:

Person

The person shows the relationship of the author / speaker with the reader / listener. There are three persons in English:

  • The first person shows that the author / speaker is talking about themselves. ( I, me, we, us )

  • The second person shows that the author is talking about you (in both the singular and the plural)

  • The third person shows that the author is talking about other people. ( he, him, she, her, it, they, them )

Number

The number of people may also be shown in the differentiation between the singular forms (eg. I, you, him, her) and the plural forms (eg. we, us, you, they).

Gender

Pronouns may also differ according to gender. In English, gender is shown in the various forms of the third-person pronouns 'he' and 'her'. There is also the neuter (like 'neutral') third-person pronoun 'it'.

What is a relative pronoun?

Relative pronouns are words that connect a noun or pronoun to a clause or phrase. The relative pronouns are that, who, which, whose, and whom. For these pronouns, it is best to look at some examples first as they are easier to understand in context:

Pronoun, relative pronouns, StudySmarterExamples of relative pronouns (StudySmarter)

Relative pronouns can refer to the subject or the object. They can also be possessive. As we can see in the examples, relative pronouns connect a noun or pronoun (eg. 'boy') with a clause or phrase (eg. 'likes me').

They are used for two reasons; firstly, they clarify what exactly we are talking about (eg. 'the boy who likes me') and secondly they give further information about a noun (eg. 'we ate pizza, which was a nice treat').

Other examples of relative pronouns include 'whoever' and 'whomever'. Words such as 'where', 'when', and 'what' can also be used as relative pronouns in certain contexts e.g. 'John remembers a time when he was young and outgoing' or 'I'd like to travel to the place where my dad grew up'.

What is a demonstrative pronoun?

Demonstrative pronouns point to a specific noun. They replace the noun in a sentence whilst also giving information about distance. There are four demonstrative pronouns in English:

  • this

  • that

  • these

  • those

The pronouns 'this' and 'these' suggest something is nearby eg. 'who sent this ? (in my hand)' or 'look at these ! (right here)'. The pronouns 'that' and 'those' suggest distance eg. 'I'm not going to eat that ' (over there on the plate), or ' those are important documents' (over there).

Demonstrative pronouns use the same words as demonstrative determiners. The main difference between the two is that pronouns can stand alone (eg. 'who sent this ?'), whereas determiners need a noun to go alongside them (eg. 'who sent this letter ?').

What is an indefinite pronoun?

Indefinite pronouns are used to refer to a person or thing that you don't need to, or want to, specify precisely. In other words, they do not 'define' the noun, but instead are more general. Examples of indefinite pronouns include words like:

  • anyone

  • somebody

  • anything

  • everything

  • some

  • enough

'Everything is going as planned '

In this sentence the indefinite pronoun 'everything' refers to a thing that isn't specified in the sentence. We don't know what exactly is going as planned (it could be a big secret birthday party, but we'll never know!).

'Don't tell anyone my secret'

Here the indefinite pronoun 'anyone' refers to people in general rather than specifying someone in particular.

What is an interrogative pronoun?

Interrogative pronouns are used to ask questions. They are the ' wh - ' words often used at the beginning of a sentence.

There are five interrogative pronouns in English: what, who, which, whom, and whose. While these are all pretty similar to the relative pronouns we mentioned above, interrogative pronouns are used for a completely different purpose. Take a look at the following examples to understand how they are used in context:

pronouns interrogative pronouns StudySmarterExamples of interrogative pronouns (StudySmarter)

Determiners vs. pronouns

It is important to understand the difference between pronouns and determiners as it can be quite easy to mix them up. All determiners come right before a noun or a noun phrase. They can never stand alone in a sentence. Pronouns, by contrast, can stand alone and often replace the noun or noun phrase. Take a look at these sentences:

Pronoun, determiners vs. pronouns StudySmarterDeterminers vs. pronouns (StudySmarter)

As we can see, determiners always come immediately before a noun, whilst pronouns are more independent.

Pronoun - key takeaways

  • A pronoun is a word that can replace a noun or a noun phrase in a sentence. They refer to either a noun that has previously been mentioned or does not need to be specified, and can help prevent repetition. The noun that the pronoun refers to is called the antecedent.
  • There are seven main types of pronoun: personal pronouns, reflexive pronouns, relative pronouns, possessive pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, indefinite pronouns, and interrogative pronouns.
  • Personal pronouns show person, number, and gender. Person shows the relationship with the author (1st, 2nd, and 3rd person); number shows whether something is singular or plural; and gender shows whether something is masculine, feminine, or neuter.
  • Personal pronouns are associated with a particular person (or animal). They consist of subject pronouns that perform an action (I, you, he, she, it, we, and they) and object pronouns that receive the action (me, you, him, her, it, us, and them).

  • Possessive pronouns tell us who owns something. They consist of the words mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, and theirs.

  • Reflexive pronouns refer back to a person: myself, yourself, yourself, yourself, yourself, yourself, yourselves, and themselves.

  • Relative pronouns connect a noun or pronoun to a clause or phrase: that, who, which, whose, and whom.

  • Demonstrative pronouns point to a specific person or thing: this, that, these, and those.

  • Indefinite pronouns refer to people or things that you don't need to or want to specify precisely. This includes words like anyone, somebody, anything, some, and enough.

  • Interrogative pronouns are wh- words that are used to ask questions: what, who, which, whom, and whose.

,

Pronoun

A pronoun is a word that can replace a noun or a noun phrase in a sentence. They refer to either a noun that has previously been mentioned or does not need to be specified and helps to prevent repetition.

Relative pronouns are words that connect a noun or pronoun to a clause or phrase. The most common relative pronouns include the words that, who, which, whose, and whom. Relative pronouns clarify what exactly we are talking about (e.g. ‘the boy who likes me’) and give further information about a noun (e.g. ‘we ate pizza, which was a nice treat’).

Possessive pronouns tell us who owns something. They consist of the words mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, and theirs. For example, in the sentence ‘the dog is hers’ the possessive pronoun ‘hers’ indicates that the noun (the dog) belongs to a previously mentioned girl/ woman, or someone that is being physically pointed out.

Personal pronouns are associated with a particular person (or animal). We often substitute the proper name of the person (e.g. ‘Sarah’) for the pronoun so that we don’t have to constantly repeat the name of the person. They consist of subject pronouns that do the action (I, you, he, she, it, we, and they) and object pronouns that receive the action (me, you, him, her, it, us, and them).

Final Pronoun Quiz

Question

Pronouns replace a _________ in a sentence. Fill in the blanks.

Show answer

Answer

Pronouns replace a noun or a noun phrase in a sentence.

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Question

Pronouns refer to a noun that has previously been mentioned or a general noun that does not need to be specified. True or false?


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Answer

Pronouns refer to a noun that has previously been mentioned or a general noun that does not need to be specified. True or false?

Show question

Question

What are the pronouns in the following sentence? ‘Beth rode her new bike. She was happy with her gift.’


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Answer

The pronouns in this sentence are ‘her’, ‘she’, and ‘her’ as they all replace the noun (Beth), who has previously been mentioned.

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Question

What is the antecedent?


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Answer

The noun that the pronoun refers to is called the antecedent. For example, in the sentence ‘Beth rode her bike’, the word ‘Beth’ is the antecedent as the pronoun ‘her’ refers to Beth.

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Question

Name the 7 main types of pronouns.


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Answer

The 7 main types of pronouns are; personal pronouns, reflexive pronouns, relative pronouns, possessive pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, indefinite pronouns, and interrogative pronouns.

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Question

Personal pronouns are pronouns associated with a particular _______. Personal pronouns consist of 2 types of personal pronouns:  _______ pronouns and ________ pronouns. Fill in the blanks.


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Answer

Personal pronouns are pronouns associated with a particular person (or animal). Personal pronouns consist of 2 types of personal pronouns: subject pronouns and object pronouns.

Show question

Question

What are subject pronouns and object pronouns?


Show answer

Answer

Subject pronouns are the person or thing that does the action. Object pronouns are the person or thing that the action is done to (they receive the action).

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Question

Possessive pronouns give information about _______. Fill in the blanks.


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Answer

Possessive pronouns give information about who owns the thing (noun) e.g. ‘the ball is his’.

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Question

Which of the following are examples of reflexive pronouns?

  • Him

  • Itself

  • Myself

  • That

Show answer

Answer

The reflexive pronouns are ‘itself’ and ‘myself’ as they are used to refer back to a person or thing. Reflexive pronouns all end in -self or -selves.

Show question

Question

Pronouns can show person, number, and gender. What does the pronoun ‘her’ show in terms of person, number, and gender?



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Answer

The pronoun ‘her’ is in the 3rd person (the author/ speaker is talking about other people). It also shows a singular person whose gender is feminine.

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Question

What type of pronoun is ‘that’ in the following stance? ‘It is the 9:30 train that you need to take’


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Answer

The pronoun ‘that’ is a relative pronoun. It is used to connect the noun ‘train’ with the clause ‘you need to take’. Relative pronouns clarify what noun we are talking about and give further information about the noun.

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Question

Which of the following are NOT a demonstrative pronoun?

  • Those

  • Which

  • That

  • This

Show answer

Answer

The word ‘which’ is not a demonstrative pronoun. Demonstrative pronouns point to a specific noun and give information about distance.

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Question

Indefinite pronouns specify the noun we are referring to. True or false?


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Answer

False. Indefinite pronouns are used to refer to a person or thing that you don’t need to/ want to specify precisely. They refer to more general things e.g. ‘something’, ‘anybody’, ‘some’.

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Question

Give 3 examples of interrogative pronouns.


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Answer

There are 5 interrogative pronouns in English, these are what, who, which, whom, and whose. These are used to ask questions.

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Question

What is the main difference between pronouns and determiners?



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Answer

Determiners always come before a noun or a noun phrase, they can never stand alone in a sentence. Pronouns however can stand alone and often replace the noun or noun phrase.

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