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?

In the broadest terms, pronouns are words that replace or refer to nouns or noun phrases.
However, sometimes a pronoun does not refer to anything specific or anything at all!

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.

What Are 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 and 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.

Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

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.

We live in a beautiful house, we like our house.

Similarities and Differences Between Pronouns and Nouns

Sometimes, nouns and pronouns follow the same rules, while other times they do not. For example, determiners can be added to modify nouns, but they cannot appear before pronouns. Refer to the table for more information on their similarities and differences.

Pronouns Example Nouns Example
determiners + pronoun✗ A his determiners + noun✓ A man ✓
pronoun + pronoun✗ his her pronoun + noun✗ his car✓
noun + pronoun✗ car his noun + noun✓ school bus✓

Nouns and pronouns are similar when it comes to using prepositions and verbs. Both can be used with prepositions. They can also be followed by verbs to show actions. Now refer to the table for more information

Pronouns Example Nouns Example
preposition + pronoun✓ For her✓ preposition + noun✓ In the park✓
pronoun + verb✓ They dance.✓ noun + verb✓ Children play.✓
verb + pronoun✓ Sing me a song.✓ verb + noun✓ Sing a song.✓

Pronouns: Types

In general, there are two types of pronouns in English:

  1. Personal pronouns
  2. Impersonal pronouns

Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns have grammatical features like person, number, and, in some cases, gender. They refer to specific people or things and are used to substitute for nouns in sentences. There are four types of personal pronouns as listed below:

Grammatical Features of Personal Pronouns

In terms of personal pronouns, there are some important characteristics that you should know. So take a look at the list below:

  1. Case: The 'case' of a pronoun indicates whether it is functioning as the subject or object of a sentence. For example:

They did their best to establish a new company.

As you can see, 'they' functions as the subject here.

I told him not to call again.

As you can see, 'him' functions as the object here.

Using 'I' as the Subject Pronoun

  • Gender: pronouns can also be categorized by gender, which traditionally refers to 'female', 'male', and 'neutral'. However, it is important to note that some people may not identify as either. For example:

He was a nice police officer loved by many people.

Here, 'he' refers to anyone who identifies as 'male'.

It is only two-months old.

As you can see, 'it' is a neutral pronoun here.

Tip!

It is important to remember that gender-neutral pronouns are available in all types of pronouns, including personal pronouns (subject case), object pronouns, and possessive pronouns. This includes singular gender-neutral pronouns that can be used to refer to individuals who do not identify as male or female.

  • Number: The 'number' of a pronoun indicates whether it is singular or plural, depending on the number of 'people' or 'things' it refers to. As you know, nouns can be either singular or plural, and it is important that pronouns agree with their antecedents in number. For example:

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.

  • Person: Pronouns can be categorized by their 'person,' which refers to 'who is speaking' (first-person), 'who is being spoken to' (second-person), or 'who is being spoken about' (third-person). For example:

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.

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.

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

Everybody knows her.

Exception: Plural Pronouns with Singular Meanings

When we are not sure about a person's gender, or when they identify as neither male nor female, we are supposed to use the singular gender-neutral pronoun 'they' to refer to them. In this case, it's important to remember that the verb used with 'they' should be in the third-person plural form, even though 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.

Impersonal Pronouns

Impersonal pronouns unlike personal pronouns do not have any grammatical person. There are six types of these pronouns which are as follows:

  • Demonstrative pronouns: Demonstrative pronouns, such as 'this,' 'that,' 'these,' and 'those,' point to specific objects or groups of objects in a sentence, indicating which ones are being referred to. For example:

This is the book I was talking about.

These are the shoes I want to buy.

  • Interrogative Pronouns: Interrogative pronouns, like 'who,' 'whom,' 'whose,' 'what,' and 'which,' are used to ask questions and gather information about people or things. For example:

Who is coming to the party tonight?

What did you see?

  • Indefinite Pronouns: Indefinite pronouns, including words like 'everyone,' 'someone,' 'anything,' and 'nothing,' refer to unspecified or unidentified individuals, quantities, or things. For example:

Somebody left their umbrella here.

Nothing can stop us now.

  • Reciprocal Pronouns: Reciprocal pronouns, such as 'each other' and 'one another,' are used to show that two or more people or things are performing an action on each other. For example:

They hugged each other after the game.

The teams compete against one another fiercely.

  • Impersonal Pronouns: Impersonal pronouns, like 'one,' 'you,' and 'they,' are used to create a sense of generality or neutrality in statements or commands, often without specifying a particular person or thing. For example:

They say it's going to be a hot summer.

One should always strive for excellence.

  • Relative Pronouns: Relative pronouns, including 'who,' 'whom,' 'whose,' 'which,' and 'that,' introduce relative clauses and connect them to the main clause, providing additional information about a noun in the sentence. For example:

The person who won the race is my friend.

The book that I'm reading is really interesting.

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 pronouns 'it' and 'there' are used on 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.

Review

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

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Personal Pronouns

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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