What is a Pronoun?
In grammar, a pronoun is defined as a word or phrase that may be substituted for a noun or noun phrase, which once replaced, is known as the pronoun’s antecedent. How is this possible? In a nutshell, it’s because pronouns can do everything that nouns can do. A pronoun can act as a subject, direct object, indirect object, object of the preposition, and more.
Without pronouns, we’d have to keep on repeating nouns, and that would make our speech and writing repetitive, not to mention cumbersome. Most of them are very short words. Examples include:
As mentioned, they are usually used to replace nouns, however they can also stand in for certain adverbs, adjectives, and others. Anytime you want to talk about a person, animal, place or thing, you can use them to make your speech or writing flow better.
There are a few important rules for using them. As you read through these rules and the examples in the next section, notice how the pronoun rules are followed. Soon you’ll see that they are easy to work with.
- Subject pronouns may be used to begin sentences. For example: We did a great job.
- Subject pronouns may also be used to rename the subject. For example: It was she who decided we should go to Hawaii.
- Indefinite pronouns don’t have antecedents. They are capable of standing on their own. For example: No one likes the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard.
- Object pronouns are used as direct objects, indirect objects, and objects of prepositions. These include: you, me, him, her, us, them, and it. For example: David talked to her about the mistake.
- Possessive pronouns show ownership. They do not need apostrophes. For example: The cat washed its whiskers.
Pronouns replace nouns. A different pronoun is required depending on two elements: the noun being replaced and the function that noun has in the sentence. In English, pronouns only take the gender of the noun they replace in the 3rd person singular form. The 2nd person plural pronouns are identical to the 2nd person singular pronouns except for the reflexive pronoun.
|Subject Pronoun||Object Pronoun||Possessive Adjective (Determiner)||Possessive Pronoun||Reflexive or Intensive Pronoun|
|1st person singular||I||me||my||mine||myself|
|2nd person singular||you||you||your||yours||yourself|
|3rd person singular, male||he||him||his||his||himself|
|3rd person singular, female||she||her||her||hers||herself|
|3rd person singular, neutral||it||it||its||itself|
|1st person plural||we||us||our||ours||ourselves|
|2nd person plural||you||you||your||yours||yourselves|
|3rd person plural||they||them||their||theirs||themselves|
Subject pronouns replace nouns that are the subject of their clause. In the 3rd person, subject pronouns are often used to avoid repetition of the subject's name.
- I am 16.
- You seem lost.
- Jim is angry, and he wants Sally to apologize.
- This table is old. It needs to be repainted.
- We aren't coming.
- They don't like pancakes.
Object pronouns are used to replace nouns that are the direct or indirect object of a clause.
- Give the book to me.
- The teacher wants to talk to you.
- Jake is hurt because Bill hit him.
- Rachid recieved a letter from her last week.
- Mark can't find it.
- Don't be angry with us.
- Tell them to hurry up!
POSSESSIVE ADJECTIVES (DETERMINERS)
Possessive adjectives are not pronouns, but rather determiners. It is useful to learn them at the same time as pronouns, however, because they are similar in form to the possessive pronouns. Possessive adjectives function as adjectives, so they appear before the noun they modify. They do not replace a noun as pronouns do.
- Did mother find my shoes?
- Mrs. Baker wants to see your homework.
- Can Jake bring over his baseball cards?
- Samantha will fix her bike tomorrow.
- The cat broke its leg.
- This is our house.
- Where is their school?
Possessive pronouns replace possessive nouns as either the subject or the object of a clause. Because the noun being replaced doesn't appear in the sentence, it must be clear from the context.
- This bag is mine.
- Yours is not blue.
- That bag looks like his.
- These shoes are not hers.
- That car is ours.
- Theirs is parked in the garage.
REFLEXIVE & INTENSIVE PRONOUNS
They are the same set of words but they have different functions in a sentence.
Reflexive pronouns refer back to the subject of the clause because the subject of the action is also the direct or indirect object. Only certain types of verbs can be reflexive. You cannot remove a reflexive pronoun from a sentence because the remaining sentence would be grammatically incorrect.
- I told myself to calm down.
- You cut yourself on this nail?
- He hurt himself on the stairs.
- She found herself in a dangerous part of town.
- The cat threw itself under my car!
- We blame ourselves for the fire.
- The children can take care of themselves.
Intensive pronouns emphasize the subject of a clause. They are not the object of the action. The intensive pronoun can always be removed from a sentence without changing the meaning significantly, although the emphasis on the subject will be removed. Intensive pronouns can be placed immediately after the subject of the clause, or at the end of the clause.
- I made these cookies myself.
- You yourself asked Jake to come.
- The Pope himself pardoned Mr. Brown.
- My teacher didn't know the answer herself.
- The test itself wasn't scary, but my teacher certainly is.
- We would like to finish the renovation before Christmas ourselves.
- They themselves told me the lost shoe wasn't a problem.
Below are in-depth lessons about the topic.