What Is a Pronoun? A Simple Guide

Pronouns Substitute for Nouns

Simply put, pronouns substitute for nouns. (For more on the parts of speech, check out this article.) Nouns are people, places, things, and ideas. Some nouns are: apple, car, Becky, mountain, kitchen, time, happiness.

Pronouns include he, she, it, they, who, and more. 

Pronouns are used to refer to people and things that have been previously mentioned. They prevent us from needing to repeat the noun over and over. 

In this example, the pronouns he/him/his substitute for the noun Michael:

  • Without pronouns: Michael went to the store yesterday. Michael needed to buy eggs so Michael could make French toast for Michael’s brunch party. Eggs were on sale, which made Michael happy.
  • With pronouns: Michael went to the store yesterday. He needed to buy eggs so that he could make French toast for his brunch party. Eggs were on sale, which made him happy.

Types of Pronouns

These are the main categories of pronouns:

  • Personal pronouns
    • Subject pronouns — I, you, he, she, it, we, you, they
    • Object pronouns — me, you, him, her, it, us, you, them
    • Possessive pronouns — mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, yours, theirs
  • Demonstrative pronouns 
    • this, these, that, those
  • Interrogative pronouns
    • who, whom, which, what
  • Relative pronouns
    • who, whom, that, which, whoever, whichever, whomever
  • Reflexive and intensive pronouns 
    • myself, yourself, himself, herself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves
  • Indefinite pronouns
    • all, another, any, anybody, anyone, anything, each, everybody, everyone, everything, few, many, nobody, none, one, several, some, somebody, and someone

Let’s explore them all.

Personal Pronouns: Navigating the Self and Others

Personal pronouns are fundamental in expressing individuals or groups. They can be categorized into subjective, objective, and possessive forms.

The subjective form is used when the pronoun is the subject of the sentence, while the objective form is employed when it functions as the object. Possessive pronouns show ownership or belonging, which we’ll discuss in a moment. 

List of Subjective Personal Pronouns

  • I
  • You
  • He
  • She
  • It
  • We
  • They

List of Objective Personal Pronouns

  • Me
  • You
  • Him
  • Her
  • It
  • Us
  • Them

What are subjects and objects? Here’s a refresher: 

Subjects are the ones doing the action in a sentence. For example:

Eleanor loves Mary. 

In this example, Eleanor is the subject, she does the doing, the acting, the loving.

Objects, on the other hand, receive the action of a verb, or they can be the objects of prepositions.

Eleanor loves Mary.

In the example, Mary is the object — she receives the action of the verb loves.

Were we to substitute nouns for pronouns, we would write 

She (subject pronoun) loves her (object pronoun).

We would not say, “she loves she” or “her loves her.”

Examples of Subjective Pronouns in a Sentence

  • She went to the store.
  • John is happy because he has a new car.
  • I think that we are going to make a great team.
  • They will love the wedding gift.

Examples of Objective Pronouns in a Sentence

  • Jeremiah walked her to the store.
  • Clarence loved the new car given to him.
  • Who is going to do this for us?
  • We got a wedding gift from them.

Possessive Pronouns: Claiming Ownership

Possessive pronouns indicate ownership or belonging. They include:

  • Mine
  • Yours
  • His
  • Hers
  • Its
  • Ours
  • Theirs

Examples of Possessive Pronouns in a Sentence

  • The book on the table is mine.
  • Your apple pie tastes the best!
  • Is that our new car?
  • The dog scratched its ear.

Relative Pronouns: Connecting Clauses

Relative pronouns introduce relative clauses and connect them to the main clause. The most common relative pronouns are:

  • Who
  • Whom
  • Whose
  • Which
  • That

Examples of Relative Pronouns in a Sentence

  • The person who called is waiting outside.
  • The book that I read was fascinating.
  • The apple, which fell from the tree, hit my head.

Check out this article for more information on using that and which.

Demonstrative Pronouns: Pointing the Way

Demonstrative pronouns indicate specific items and help distinguish between them. The primary demonstrative pronouns are:

  • This
  • That
  • These
  • Those

Examples of Demonstrative Pronouns in a Sentence

  • I prefer this shirt over that shirt.
  • These apples are the tastiest.
  • I want to read those books.

Interrogative Pronouns: Seeking Information

Interrogative pronouns are used to ask questions and include:

  • Who
  • Whom
  • Whose
  • Which
  • What

Examples of Interrogative Pronouns

  • Who is coming to the party?
  • Which shirt should I wear?
  • This birthday cake is for whom?
  • Whose shirt is this?

Notice that these are similar to the demonstrative pronouns, but their usage is different. We call them interrogative when we’re asking a question, like “Which shirt should I wear?”, but we call them relative when they introduce a clause in a sentence, as in, “This shirt, which I should wear, is sparkly.”

Reflexive Pronouns: Reflecting on Our Selves

Reflexive pronouns end in -self or -selves and place the action back on the subject. They receive the action of a verb or are the object of a proposition. They include:

  • Myself
  • Yourself
  • Himself
  • Herself
  • Itself
  • Ourselves
  • Yourselves
  • Themselves

Examples of Reflexive Pronouns in a Sentence

  • She (subject) blamed herself (object) for the mistake. 

In this example, “she” is both the doer of the action — blaming — and the receiver of the action. Here are some more examples:

  • Since his date canceled, he took himself to the dance.
  • I bought myself a new shirt.
  • We have to fend for ourselves.

Reflexives as Intensifiers

Reflexive pronouns can also be used as so-called “intensifiers,” to add emphasis to the subject. We do this any time we say something like, “I saw it myself.” or “She did it herself.”

Notice how this is different from saying, “She did it for herself, in which case “herself” is merely reflexive, the object of the preposition “for.”

Indefinite Pronouns: Nonspecific but Essential

Indefinite pronouns refer to non-specific people or things.

  • All
  • Any
  • Anyone
  • Anything
  • Each
  • Everybody
  • Everything
  • Nobody
  • None
  • Nothing
  • Some
  • Somebody
  • Someone
  • Something

For example:

  • Everybody loves a good story.
  • John can do anything.
  • Cheryl has none.

Pronouns

Pronouns save us from the monotony of repeating nouns. They’re like linguistic shortcuts, making sentences smoother and less clunky. They refer to people and things mentioned earlier, enhancing the flow and readability of sentences. 

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