Pronouns

Repeating nouns while talking makes the conversation boring. This is why learning pronouns can be helpful. Let us learn more about this type of words.

What are "Pronouns" in the English Grammar?

What Are Pronouns?

Pronouns are words that replace or refer to nouns or noun phrases. As you know, a sentence can have a subject or an object and they are all nouns. Sometimes repeating the nouns can make the conversation boring and repetitive.
Even in some cases, repeating nouns makes a long complicated speech which confuses the listener. Pronouns are words that are used instead of the antecedents to avoid repetitions.

Characteristics

Based on their different characteristics, pronouns are categorized into different groups. Here are their most important characteristics.

  1. Case
  2. Gender
  3. Number
  4. Person

What Does the Word 'Case' Refer to?

The 'case' of a pronoun indicates if it is referring to a noun which is the subject or object of a sentence. So, to be clear, pronouns are categorized into two main groups based on their cases.

Subjective Pronouns

Subjective pronouns are pronouns that are used as the subject of a sentence. The most common pronouns that are used as subject pronouns are 'personal pronouns.'

They did their best to stablish a new company.

Let me see your ring, oh my God, yours is really fancy.

Objective Pronouns

Objective pronouns are those that are used in the place of an object. This means these pronouns replace a direct object, an indirect object, and a prepositional object (an object after a preposition).

I told him not to call again.

I put his cellphone on the counter and somebody stole it.

In this example, 'his cellphone' is a compound objective pronoun and 'it' is an object pronoun.

Remember, you must choose a subject pronoun if we are using it to replace a subject. And we have to use an object pronoun if we are using it to replace an object

Compound Pronouns

compound subject pronouns are subjects that are made of two or more words. There are compound object pronouns in English as well. The only important thing is to use them in their correct positions.

You and I are both in the same boat on this case, so just support what I say. (Not "You and me are both in the same boat on this case, so just support what I say.")

They warned you and even us to get fired. (Not "They warned you and even we to get fired.")

Tip!

'Me and you' or 'my friend and me' at the beginning of a statement are examples of compound subjective pronouns. But remember, this use is not correct grammatically. Still we use it in everyday English.

Gender in Pronouns

Pronouns can have 'gender.' 'Gender' refers to being a woman, man. But let us keep in mind that some people do not consider themselves as either one. Here are three main 'genders':

  1. Male
  2. Female
  3. Neuter

The term 'male' refers to a man or a boy. On the contrary, the term 'female' refers to a woman or a girl. The term 'neuter' means 'neither male nor female.'

He was a nice police officer loved by people.

It is only two-months old.

Using 'I' as the Subject Pronoun

Number in Pronouns

The 'number' of a pronoun indicates how many 'people' or 'things' we are referring to. As you know, nouns can be plural or singular, so it is natural that pronouns agree with their numbers.

  1. Plural
  2. Singular

So, if the 'antecedents' are plural, the pronouns should be plural and if they are singular, the pronouns have to be singular.

The old farmer has ten hens and they lay 50 eggs per day.

Here in this example, as the antecedent is plural (hens) the pronoun that is referring to it (they) is plural as well.

Although they had the best car ever, they sold it to buy a new house.

Persons in Pronouns

'Persons' can indicate a few things. They can indicate 'who or what is talking.' Sometimes they can even indicate 'to whom we are talking' or 'to what we are talking.' And in some cases, they indicate 'what or whom we are talking about.' Based on 'persons,' pronouns are categorized into three groups.

  1. First-person
  2. Second-person
  3. Third-person

First-person refers to a person or people who are speaking or writing about something. Second-person tells about the person or people being spoken to. And third-person talks about other people or things.

Pam and I were talking about the leaves of the trees that suddenly we saw a bear by the side of the river.

They both studied art at university. No surprise that they are opening their own art galley.

Similarities and Differences Between Pronouns and Nouns

Sometimes 'nouns' and 'pronouns' follow the same rules and sometimes they do not. For example, one of the very differences is that a determiner cannot appear before pronouns, but determiners are easily added to nouns to modify them. Check out the table to find their similarities and differences.

determiners + pronoun determiners + noun
pronoun + pronoun pronoun + noun
noun + pronoun noun + noun
pronoun alone noun alone
preposition + pronoun preposition + noun
pronoun + verb noun + verb
verb + pronoun verb + noun

Rules of Determiners

Determiners are just added to nouns and they cannot be added to pronouns as it was mentioned earlier.

The man is our boss.

The he is our boss.

The Combination of Nouns and Pronouns

It is important to know that we cannot have a pronoun added to a noun or vice versa. That is because as we said, all about pronouns is that they are used instead of nouns not with them.

He is tall. (Not " He Alex is tall." or "Alex he is tall.")

Noun Modifiers and Pronoun Modifiers

Usually, we cannot have two words of the same word-class immediately after each other, but it is not correct for nouns. A noun can be added to another noun as its modifier, however, we cannot use a pronoun as a modifier for another pronoun.

The chicken soup tasted delicious.

He him is trying to find the answers.

Position of Objects

Both nouns and pronouns can be 'objects' so, they can be used after prepositions, or even after transitive verbs.

Did you search carefully? Maybe it is under them.

I will tell you everything later.

Pronouns Agree with the Verbs

When we say two things agree with each other, it means that they follow the same rules. You must know, pronouns agree with the 'verbs.'
For example, if the verb is third-person singular, the pronoun must be in the third-person singular form as well.

She drinks a lot, and it is not good for her child to see her like this.

Everybody knows her.

Exceptions

Plural Pronouns with Singular Meanings

Sometimes, when we are not sure about the gender of a person, or when they consider themselves as neither male nor female, we are supposed to use singular genderless they to refer to them.
In this case, you have to keep in mind that the verb is used in plural form even if it is referring to only one person.

Each student had a gift delivered to them.

We have found a credit card, the person who owns it must come to get it, themselves.

Tip!

Remember, singular genderless pronoun exists in any kind of pronouns we mean we have a personal singular genderless pronoun, objective singular genderless pronoun, etc.

Dummy Pronouns

In this article, we have mentioned that pronouns should refer to something. But here is the thing, it is not always like this. Dummy pronouns are those pronouns that do not refer to anything. In other words, dummy pronouns do not have antecedents as other pronouns do. They are words that act like pronouns, but do not replace a noun or noun phrase.
There are two dummy pronouns in English.

Dummy pronoun 'it' and 'there' are used in many occasions and they complete the meaning of the sentences. But remember, usually, the dummy pronoun 'there' refers to the existence of something. Check out the examples for more clarification.

It is 01:00 am and you are still awake.

Here the dummy pronoun 'it' refers to the time.

There are fifty-two apples in the basket I have counted them earlier.

Different Types of Pronouns

There are ten main types of pronouns based on their special characteristics.

Nouns and Pronouns in Combination with Phrasal Verbs

What Are Phrasal Verbs?

As you might know, phrasal verbs are made of two parts. To make a phrasal verb we must have two terms. Usually, one of them is the main verb and the other one is a preposition, they are used beside each other and make a special new verb with a new meaning. We consider these two words as a single word. However, sometimes we can separate two parts of a phrasal verb and put an object between them.

We will pick up the trash.

Fire fighters couldn't get him out.

Nouns and Phrasal Verbs

Some phrasal verbs are not separable and we cannot separate them. With separable phrasal verbs, the 'noun' can be used between the two parts or after them as an object.

Please take off your shoes. (Or "Please take your shoes off."?)

Pronouns with Phrasal Verbs

We use a 'pronoun' as an object between the two parts, we can never use an objective pronoun after a phrasal verb.

Please take them off. (Not "Please take off them.)

Rules with Inseparable Phrasal Verbs

With inseparable phrasal verbs, we can have a noun as an object after the two parts, but we can never use an objective pronoun as an object for inseparable phrasal verbs.

We got off the bus. (Not "We got off it.")

Antecedents

'Antecedents' are words that are replaced by pronouns to avoid repeating them and they are all 'nouns' or *'noun phrases.' Mostly, first, we have to mention the antecedent then decide which pronoun to use instead of it.

Yesterday I saw John while he was trying to escape from the police.

Here in this example, 'John' is the antecedent which is replaced by the pronoun 'he' in the following statement.

Pronouns must agree on the number, gender, person, and the case of the antecedents. So, if the antecedents are plural, the pronouns should be plural and if they are singular, the pronouns have to be singular.

The cat was that sick which made them take it to the vet.

In this example, 'the cat' is the antecedent and the pronoun 'it' in the next statement is referring to it.

Review

Pronouns are the substitutes for nouns. As a result, they can be used instead of nouns to avoid unnecessary repetition. Pronouns can be discussed based on:

  • case
  • gender
  • number
  • person

Comments

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A personal pronoun is a word that substitutes a name to avoid repetition. Personal pronouns show us the grammatical person and gender of the name they refer to.

Subject Pronouns

Pronouns that are used in the position of a subject in sentences are called subject pronouns. In this article, you find all your answers about subject pronouns.

Object Pronouns

Pronouns that can take the place of an object are called object pronouns. In this article, you will get to know different kinds of object pronouns.

Demonstrative Pronouns

A demonstrative pronoun is a pronoun mostly used to point to something based on its distance from the speaker. In English, these pronouns have four forms.

Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive Pronouns are used to show that the subject and object of a sentence are exactly the same person or thing or there is a direct connection between them.

Emphatic Pronouns

'Emphatic pronouns' are used to refer to a noun or a pronoun mentioned earlier. So they give more detailed information.

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