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Types of Pronouns

Updated on February 6, 2014

Types of Pronouns

There are roughly about eight types of pronouns in the English language. These pronouns are: personal, indefinite, demonstrative, relative, possessive, reflexive, interrogative and reciprocal pronouns.

What is a personal pronoun?

The personal pronouns are words that are used in place of nouns that name a person or thing. For example: He gave the book to me.

There are three categories of the personal pronoun, namely the first person, second person and the third person. Each of the persons has a singular and plural form and a subjective and an objective form.

Below is a table of the personal pronoun

PERSON NOMINATIVE FORM OF PERSONAL PRONOUNS/SUBJECT PRONOUNS OBJECTIVE FORM OF PERSONAL PRONOUNS/OBJECT PRONOUNS

1st person

I (singular subject pronoun and always comes before a verb)

We (plural subject pronoun and always comes before a verb)

Me (singular object pronoun and comes after a verb)

Us (plural object pronoun and comes after a verb)

2nd person

You (singular/plural subject pronoun and always comes before a verb)

You (singular/plural object pronoun and comes after a verb)

3rd person

He (singular masculine subject pronoun and always comes before a verb)

She (singular feminine subject pronoun and always comes before a verb)

It (singular neuter pronoun and always comes before a verb)

They (plural subject pronoun and always comes before a verb)

Him (singular masculine object pronoun and always comes after a verb)

Her (singular feminine object pronoun and always comes after a verb)

It (plural neuter object pronoun and always comes after a verb)

Them (plural object pronoun and always comes after a verb)


The persons

The first person pronoun refers to the speaker or writer talking about him or herself. For example, when you write a story about an experience or adventure you have had, it is obvious you are going to use the 1st person narrative and employ pronouns such as I, me, we, and us.

The second person pronoun refers to the person or people to whom the writer or speaker is addressing. Here, the pronoun “you” is used.

The third person pronoun refers to the person or people that the writer or speaker is talking about. Here, the pronouns “he”, “she”, “it”, “they” and “them” are employed.

Subject and Object pronouns

What is the difference between a subject and an object pronoun?

Subject pronouns

A subject pronoun is a pronoun that functions as a subject of a verb. Subject pronouns come before verbs so that they can function as subjects to the verbs.

Example:

I like to read a lot.

From the sentence above, the pronoun ‘I’ is a subject of the verb ‘like’.

The list of subject pronouns in the English language is as follows: I, we, you, he, she, it, and they.

How subject pronouns are used in English language

1st use

Subject pronouns are used when the sentence or statement has a compound subject. A compound subject is defined as two or more subjects joined together by the conjunction “and” or “or”.

Examples:

John and I went to the party last night. (John is the subject in this sentence therefore it should be made to agree with a subject pronoun “I”.

My brother and I attend the same school. (My brother is the subject and should therefore agree with the subject pronoun “I”)

2nd use

Subject pronouns are used after the “be” verb (am, is, are, was, were, been, being).

Examples:

It may be he making that noise. (The subject pronoun ‘he’ is used instead of the object pronoun ‘him’).

It was she who gave me the wrong information. (The subject pronoun ‘she’ is used instead of the object pronoun ‘her’.)

It may be they playing the music. (The subject pronoun ‘they’ is used instead of the object pronoun ‘them’ because of the ‘be’ verb.)

3rd Use

The subject pronoun is used after than or as.

Examples:

Jonathan walks faster than I walk.

John swims better than she swims.

What is the object pronoun?

The object pronouns are pronouns that come after verbs and function as objects of the verbs. Object pronouns also come after prepositions and function as objects of the prepositions. The object pronouns in English are: me, us, you, her, him, it, and them.

Examples:

John asked me for help.

I gave the book to her.

I promise to call you tonight.

Did you call them?

I miss you so much.

Give it to me please.


Interrogative Pronouns

What are interrogative pronouns? An interrogative pronoun is a pronoun that is used to ask questions. Any pronoun that asks questions is an interrogative pronoun. The interrogative pronoun exists in order to represent the thing which the speaker or writer does not know.

In English grammar, there are five major interrogative pronouns. These pronouns are: who, whom, what, which, and whose.

Who and whom: The pronoun “who” is the subject form whereas “whom” is the object form. Both ‘who’ and ‘whom’ are used to refer to humans.

Example:

Who bought the book for you? (“who” used as a subject pronoun because it comes before the verb ‘bought’)

To whom did you give the money to? (‘whom’ used as an object pronoun because it comes after the preposition ‘to’)

Note: Although the pronoun “who” is a subject pronoun and “whom” is an object pronoun, sometimes in spoken English, people scarcely use “whom”. Many native English speakers would rather use “who” for both subject and object.

What

The pronoun “what” is used for things.

Examples:

What do you want from me?

What happened over there?

What can I do for you?

What can I get you this afternoon?

Which

The pronoun ‘which’ can be either used for a person or thing.

Examples:

Which problem shall we deal with first?

Which of the two boys will you punish?

Whose

The pronoun ‘whose’ is used for a person.

Examples:

Whose is this?

Whose book is this?


Note: the pronoun ‘whose’ is a possessive pronoun and at the same time an interrogative pronoun.

Example:

The book has been lying here for ages. Whose is it? (“Whose” is used as an interrogative pronoun)

I saw the book on the table and wondered whose it was. (“Whose” has been used in the sentence as a possessive pronoun)


Possessive Pronoun

What is a possessive pronoun? These are pronouns that show ownership. All pronouns that indicate ownership or possession are possessive pronouns.

For example, instead of saying “John’s book”, we can say “his book”.

Below is the list of possessive pronouns in the English language:

My, mine, our, ours, its, his, her, hers, their, theirs, your, yours, whose, and one's.

Examples of possessive pronouns in sentences:

  • John gave my book to me.
  • His car is bigger than mine.
  • Your songs are very good.
  • Our teacher has traveled outside the country.
  • The house on the hill is mine. But it can be yours for just a $50,000.
  • One’s mind is one’s greatest asset.
  • The boy is mine. He is not yours.
  • Its claws are very sharp.
  • Our school is being rehabilitated.
  • Their headmaster was involved in a scandal that saw him resigning.
  • It is mine and not yours.
  • The money is his.
  • Her mother is critically ill.
  • She keeps hers hidden.
  • His brother won the prize.
  • I really don’t know whose it is.

All the words highlighted in the sentences above are possessive pronouns. Possessive pronouns are pronouns that simply show who or what owns who or what.

Some possessive pronouns can either be subjects and objects at the same time. Examples of these possessive pronouns include the following: mine, theirs, hers, his, their, your, its.

Examples:

  • Mine is good.
  • It is mine.
  • Theirs is on the table.
  • I like theirs.
  • Hers is the most beautiful.
  • I prefer hers.
  • His mother is not a very good woman.
  • I think the house is his.
  • Its color is purple.
  • The food is its.

WARNING

Possessive pronouns do not go with apostrophes. For example: The book is theirs. NOT The book is theirs’. The only possessive pronoun that goes with an apostrophe is the pronoun "one". Example: One's mind is one's greatest gift.

CORRECT WRONGItsIt’sHersHer’sHisHis’OursOur’sYoursYour’sTheirsTheir’s


Relative Pronouns

What is a relative pronoun? A relative pronoun is defined as a pronoun that comes after a noun in order to make it clear that it is that noun that we are talking about. The relative pronoun can also be defined as a pronoun that relates to the noun appearing before it.

Examples of relative pronouns are as follow: whose, which, who, whom, and that.

  • This is the man whose daughter won the scholarship last year.
  • The boy who stole my bicycle has been caught.
  • The car that I drive is in a very good condition.
  • Investigators are looking for the man who killed the child and dumped his body in the river.
  • The car that I bought last week has been stolen.

Indefinite Pronouns

An indefinite pronoun is a pronoun that does not refer to a specific person or thing. It is because it is not specific or definite that is why it is called an indefinite pronoun.

Examples of indefinite pronouns are: all, another, any, anybody, anyone, anything, each, everybody, everyone, everything, few, many, nobody, none, one, several, some, somebody, someone etc.

All the children are here.

Does anyone want more food.

Anybody caught smoking will be banned from this group.

I am ready to do anything to gain my freedom.

Each of the children came with a present.

Everybody is here.

Everyone in the room heard the noise.

Few have ever been to that place.

Many people lost their lives in the accident.

Nobody loves you the way I do.

None of the boys arrested revealed any information about their leader.

Several people were injured in the stampede.

Someone is looking for you.

Some people can be really strange.

Somebody doesn’t like me.


Note:

  • Most indefinite pronouns can either be plural or singular.
  • Indefinite pronouns do not display case. (subject, object, or possessive) This means that they remain the same form regardless of whether they are subjects or objects.

Reciprocal Pronouns

The word reciprocal is from the word “reciprocate”. To reciprocate means to return something that has been done to you or for you. For example, John does something for you, and you do the same thing for John, you are said to have reciprocated.

Reciprocal pronoun comes in when two or more persons or things are behaving in similar way toward the other. We therefore have examples of reciprocal pronouns being each other and one another.

For example, John is looking at his wife Amanda, and Amanda is looking back at John. Here, we say:

  • John and Amanda are looking at each other.

In English language, ‘each other’ and ‘one another’ are considered the only reciprocal pronouns that exist.

Examples:

  • John and Amanda love each other.
  • They insulted each other.
  • Janet and Alice dislike each other.
  • The boys battled one another.
  • The team members were blaming one another for the defeat.
  • James, Eric and Phil love one another.
  • Tom and Jerry hate each other.
  • The dog and the cat bit each other.

Note:

From the examples above, you notice that some sentences had ‘each other’ whereas others had ‘one another’. The reason why this is so is because there is a difference between “each other” and “one another”.

What is the difference?

“Each other” is used when referring to two persons or things whereas “one another” is used when we are referring to more than two people or things.

Interestingly, despite this difference between the two, native English speakers of today use “each other” more than they use “one another”.

In informal situations or settings, “each other” can be used to refer to more than two people or things.


Reflexive Pronouns

What is a reflexive pronoun? This is a pronoun that is formed by adding –self or selves to a personal pronoun. A reflexive pronoun is one that shows that the action in a sentence affects the subject of the sentence or rather the person or thing that performs the action in the sentence.

Example: John shot himself.

From the sentence above, “John” is the doer of the action and also the recipient of his action.

The reflexive pronouns in English are:

myself, ourselves, yourself, yourselves, himself, herself, itself, and themselves.

When do we use reflexive pronouns?

Reflexive pronouns are used in the following ways:

  • When the action expressed by the verb is directed back to the subject.

For example: I soon found myself sitting in a police cell.

  • When we are giving more emphasis to a noun or pronoun that we have already mentioned.

For example: The president himself was present at the meeting.

Example:

  • The man killed himself.
  • I looked at myself in the mirror.
  • The child hurt himself.
  • I blame myself.
  • I spoke to the Minister himself.
  • The child soiled herself.
  • The president himself was there to see the damage.

Demonstrative pronoun

A demonstrative pronoun is a pronoun that points out or demonstrates the thing or things that are meant.

There are only four demonstrative pronouns in the English language. They are: this, that, these, those.

How to use demonstrative pronouns

The demonstrative pronoun ‘this’ is used when referring to a singular thing that is very close to the speaker.

That’ is used to refer to a singular thing that is far away from the speaker.

These’ is used to refer to plural things that are very close to the speaker.

Those’ is used to point out plural things that are far away from the speaker.

Examples of demonstrative pronouns used in sentences:

  • This is my friend.
  • That is my car parked over there.
  • These are my family members.
  • Those are my books on the shelf.

WARNING

It is imperative that you do not confuse demonstrative pronouns with demonstrative adjectives because they are both very similar.

The difference between a demonstrative pronoun and a demonstrative adjective is that a demonstrative adjective always moves with nouns and qualifies them whereas a demonstrative pronoun will have a verb coming after it.

Example:

  • This is a very interesting book. (Demonstrative pronoun)
  • This book is very interesting. (Demonstrative adjective)

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