|Table of contents
|What Are Pronouns?
|Types of Pronouns
|1. Personal Pronouns
|2. Relative Pronouns
|Who vs. Whom—Subject and Object Pronouns
|3. Demonstrative Pronouns
|4. Indefinite Pronouns
|5. Reflexive Pronouns
|6. Intensive Pronouns
|7. Possessive Pronouns
|8. Interrogative Pronouns
|9. Reciprocal Pronouns
|10. Distributive Pronouns
You use pronouns every day. In fact, even if you don’t know what pronouns are, you use them—and in this sentence alone, we’ve now used pronouns four times.
Pronouns do a whole lot more than turn phrases into sentences. They provide context, make your sentences’ meanings clearer, and shape how we perceive people and things.
Read on to learn about the different ways we use pronouns and how to use them to construct sentences. Pronouns are short words we swap in for other nouns to make our writing and speech faster and more varied. They’re words like:
Pronouns make up a small subcategory of nouns. The distinguishing characteristic of pronouns is that they can be substituted for other nouns.
For instance, if you’re telling a story about your sister Sarah, the story will begin to sound repetitive if you keep repeating “Sarah” over and over again.
You could try to mix it up by sometimes referring to Sarah as “my sister,” but then it sounds like you’re referring to two different people:
Instead, you can use the pronouns she and her to refer to Sarah:
Pronouns can replace both proper and common nouns. Certain pronouns have specific rules about when they can be used, such as how they should never be used to refer to a human being.
We will explain all of the different types and their associated rules below.
In grammatical sense, a personal pronoun is a pronoun that is related mainly to a particular person. Personal pronouns are not limited to people, it can also refer to animals and objects.
When you think of pronouns, you most likely think of personal pronouns. Personal pronouns are pronouns that refer to specific individuals and groups. Personal pronouns include:
Here are a few examples of personal pronouns in italics, with the nouns they’re referring to bolded:
In the second example sentence, notice that nachos (a noun) and them (a pronoun) aren’t emphasized. That’s because in this sentence, them isn’t a personal pronoun because it isn’t replacing a proper noun, but rather we is.
Traditionally, who refers to people, and which and that refer to animals or things. Here are a few examples of relative pronouns at work:
Knowing when to use who and when to use whom trips a lot of writers up.
The difference is actually pretty simple: Who is for the subject of a sentence, and whom is for the object of a verb or preposition. Here’s a quick example:
See the difference?
Who is a subject pronoun. It’s in the same category as I, he, she, they, and we.
Whom is an object pronoun, which puts it in the same category as me, him, her, them, and us.
An easy way to determine whether you should use who or whom in a sentence is to answer the sentence’s question by substituting another pronoun.
With the new pronoun in place, determine if the sentence still makes sense.
Figuring out when to use whom can be more difficult than knowing when to use who because it typically comes before the sentence’s verb—notice how the example object pronoun sentence changed more dramatically than the subject pronoun sentence.
Everyone might be familiar with the word ‘demo’.
Take a look at these examples:
- Here is a letter with no return address. Who could have sent this?
- What a fantastic idea! This is the best thing I’ve heard all day.
- If you think gardenias smell nice, try smelling these.
Here are a few examples of these pronouns in action:
- A house like that would be a nice place to live.
- Some new flavors of soda came in last week. Why don’t you try some of those?
- Those aren’t swans, they’re geese.
Here are a few examples of indefinite pronouns in sentences:
- Everybody was late to work because of the traffic jam.
- It matters more to some than others.
- Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.
When indefinite pronouns function as subjects of a sentence or clause, they usually take singular verbs.
Use a reflexive pronoun when both the subject and object of a verb refer to the same person or thing.
Here are a few examples:
- She checked herself out of the hotel thirty minutes before check-out time.
- Take care of yourselves.
Take a look at these examples of intensive pronouns and examine how they’re different from the examples in the previous section:
- I told them I could do it myself.
- We asked ourselves, is this business really worth saving?
If you can remove a pronoun from a sentence and it loses emphasis but its meaning stays the same, it’s most likely an intensive pronoun.
Compare these two sentences:
See how the second one emphasizes that the builder had no outside help?
Here are a few more examples:
- They hiked the entire Appalachian Trail themselves?
- Did you, yourself, see Loretta spill the coffee?
These can also be called possessive adjectives if they modify a noun in a sentence.
Take a look at these examples of possessive adjectives in action:
This category also includes independent versions of possessive pronouns. These include:
When you use an independent possessive pronoun, you drop the noun it’s referring to.
Here are a few examples:
- She forgot her jacket, so I gave her mine.
- I had no idea whose bid won the auction, then my cousins told me theirs did.
Here are a few examples of interrogative pronouns at play:
- Who wants a bag of jelly beans?
- What is your name?
- Which movie do you want to watch?
- Whose jacket is this?
These pronouns refer to two or more people who are both the subject of the sentence.
Take a look at these examples:
- Javier and Priya, the two top salespeople on our team, are competing with each other for Salesperson of the Year.
- All my siblings are blaming one another for letting the boa constrictor out last Thanksgiving.
Distributive pronouns include the following:
Here are a few examples of distributive pronouns in sentences:
- All of my friends entered the costume contest and none of them won.
- Cookies and muffins are available for dessert. Neither is appealing to me.
|1. What are personal pronouns?
|2. What are relative pronouns?
|3. When do we use "who" and "whom" in a sentence?
|4. What are demonstrative pronouns?
|5. What are possessive pronouns?