What are Pronouns? Types and Examples (2023)

A pronounis a noun that takes the place of a noun or groups of nouns.

Using pronouns allows speakers and writers to communicate without having to repetitively restate the noun being commented on. Because pronouns “stand in” for nouns, you have to be sure that the pronoun you choose agrees in number, person, and gender of the noun it is standing in for (the noun that the pronoun stands in for is called the antecedent, which we'll discuss later in this article).

There are many types of pronouns to be aware of. Keep reading for easy explanations and clear pronoun examples.

Personal Pronouns

What are Pronouns? Types and Examples (1)

Personal pronouns are pronouns that take the place of common and proper nouns and refer to people and things.

Example

My brotheris staying up late to watch a “Walking Dead” marathon.He is going to have nightmares!

In this example, the author doesn’t have to repeatmy brother since she uses the personal pronoun he.

Personal pronouns can be singular or plural; they can also be categorized into first, second, and third person forms.

Personal (Definite) Pronouns

Singular
Plural
First Person
I, me
we, us
Second Person
you
you
Third Person
she, her, he, him, it
they, them

Definite & Indefinite Pronouns

What is the difference between definite and indefinite pronouns? A definite pronoun is a pronoun that refers to something specific, so a personal pronoun would also be a definite pronoun (see the examples in the previous section).

(Video) Types of Pronouns | Parts of Speech App

Indefinite pronouns do not refer to anything specific, so words like someoneandeverybody are indefinite pronouns. Indefinite pronouns can also be singular or plural.

Here's a list of indefinite pronouns:

Indefinite Pronouns

Singular
anybody, anyone, anything, each, either, everybody, everyone, everything, neither, nobody, no one, nothing, one, somebody, someone, something
Plural
both, few, many, several
Singular or Plural
all, any, most, none, some

Possessive Pronouns

Possessive pronouns are pronouns that show ownership.

Some possessive pronouns can be used before nouns and function as adjectives (words that describe nouns). Examples would be pronouns like my,her, orhisas in mybooks,hercomputer, andhiszombie plan.

Other possessive pronouns stand alone. These are pronouns likemine,yours,hers, andhis.Example: That book is hers.

Relative Pronouns

What are Pronouns? Types and Examples (2)

Relative pronouns relate subordinate clauses (clauses that cannot stand alone) to the rest of a sentence.

There are five relative pronouns in English:who,whom,whose,that,andwhich.

Example

Belen, who had starred in six plays before she turned seventeen, knew that she wanted to act on Broadway someday.

The relative pronoun who is the subject of the subordinate clause, who had starred in six plays..., and it refers back to the main subject of the sentence, Belen.

Example

My daughter wants to adopt the dog that doesn’t have a tail.

That functions the same way that who does in the previous example. Use who when referring to people and that when referring to anything else.

It's easy to get pronouns mixed up. One of the most common mistakes in pronoun usage has to do with using who vs whom.

(Video) PRONOUNS | Definition, Types & Examples in 5 MINUTES | Parts of speech

Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns stand in for things, and we choose these words based on how close these things are to us. For things that are nearby, we use the pronouns thisandthese. For things that are far away, we use the pronounsthatandthose.

It's important to note that the idea of closeness can refer to the physical, emotional, or temporal.

Example:Do I actually have to read all of this?

The speaker is indicating a text that is close to her, by using “this.”

Example:That is not coming anywhere near me.

The speaker is distancing himself from the object in question, which he doesn’t want to get any closer. The far pronoun helps indicate that.

Example:You’re telling me you sewed all ofthese?

The speaker and her audience are likely looking directly at the clothes in question, so the close pronoun is appropriate.

Example:Thoseare all gross.

The speaker wants to remain away from the gross items in question, by using the far “those.”

Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns end inselforselves, and they’re used when a pronoun is both the subject and the object of a sentence.

Example: I am going to treat myself to a little vacation from all of this worry about a zombie apocalypse and spend the day playing Halo on my Xbox.

Example: She is going to can all of those beans for her zombie storage room herself.

Reflexive pronouns can also be used to show emphasis in a sentence, as illustrated in this example:

Example: I myself had to go through all of those web pages to find the one that would be the most helpful for our escape plan.

(Video) The Super Easy Way to Learn Pronouns in English | Types of Pronouns | List of Pronouns with Examples

Subjective vs. Objective Pronouns

Pronouns can appear in the subjective or the objective case. Subjective pronouns tell us who or what the sentence or clause is about. Objective pronouns receive the action in the sentence or clause.

Subject and Object Pronouns

Singular
Plural
Subjective
I, you, he, she, it
we, you, they
Objective
me, you, her, him, it
us, you, them

You and IversusYou and Me

Remember that every time you use a pronoun you need to make sure that you’re using the correct case.

Some of the most common pronoun mistakes occur when writers have to choose between “you and I” and “you and me.”

Incorrect:You and me should go out for drinks.”

Both pronouns are the subject of the sentence, so they should be in subject case: “You and I should go out for drinks.”

Incorrect: Susan assigned the task to both you and I.

Both pronouns are the object of the sentence, so they should be in object case: “Susan assigned the task to both you and me.”

Pronoun Agreement & Reference

Issues with pronoun agreement and pronoun references are common struggles for many beginning writers, but these problems are easy to correct once you realize the issue.

Pronoun agreement errors occur when the pronoun you are using to “stand in” for a noun does not agree with that noun in number, place, or gender. For example, using the singular pronoun she to stand in for a group of girls would not agree in number. Errors like this aren’t usually an issue for most writers.

A more common pronoun agreement error occurs when a writer uses a singular noun like studentto represent students in general. Then, later, the writer may usetheyas a pronoun to replacestudentbecause the writermeantstudents in general.

Example: Ifa studentreally thinks about how muchtheyare paying for college,they are likely to be more focused in class.

You have a options for correcting this error. You can change theyto "he"or"she"or "she or he":

Revision 1: If a student really thinks about how much he is paying for college, he are likely to be more focused in class.

(Video) Seven Types of Pronouns | Parts of Speech

Revision 1 is a common way to handle this issue, but try to balance the number of times you use he with she. UsingHe was the traditional recommendation in usage guides, but many critics have aptly pointed out the sexist bias inherent in using only he.

Revision 2: If a student really thinks about how much she or he is paying for college, she or he are likely to be more focused in class.

Revision 2 technically works, but it's awkward most style guides recommend avoiding this construction.

A better option would be to change the antecedent (student) to its plural form:

Revision 3: Ifstudentsreally think about how much they are paying for college, they are likely to be more focused in class.

Here are more examples of personal pronouns used with antecedents:

  • That manlooks as ifheneeds a new coat. (the noun phrasethat manis the antecedent ofhe)
  • Katarrived yesterday. I metherat the station. (Katis the antecedent ofher)
  • Whentheysaw us,the lionsbegan roaring (the lionsis the antecedent ofthey)
  • Adamand Iwere hoping no one would findus. (Adamand Iis the antecedent ofus)

Note:Pronouns likeI,we, andyoudon’t always require an explicitly stated antecedent. When a speakersays something like “I told you the zoo was closed today,” it’s implied that the speaker is the antecedent forIand the listener is the antecedent foryou.

Other Pronoun Reference Errors

A common pronoun reference error occurs when writers write about several different people or things and then use a pronoun later like sheorit, but the audience has no idea whatsheoritrefers to.

Example: My mother and my aunt told me I should consider going to college, and she was right.

Here, the audience wouldn’t be sure which person the writer is referring to. Is it the mother or the aunt?

Such errors are easy to make but they're also easy to fix. Just be sure to double check pronoun usage during the editing and proofreading stages.

Conclusion

The simple question of what is a pronoun? has a delightfuly elaborate answer—a rich reminder of the joy in studying English grammar. But it's also important to remember that grammar and writing are fundamenally separate endeavors. More fruitful than simply understanding grammar is understanding how grammar can affect clear and effective writing. To see a perfect example of this idea, go to the next article, which explains the problem of unclear pronoun reference.

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