A pronoun can replace a noun or another pronoun. Pronouns such as “he,” “which,” “none,” and “you” are used to make sentences less cumbersome and less repetitive. Pronouns are classified into several types which include the personal pronoun, the demonstrative pronoun, the interrogative pronoun, the indefinite pronoun, the relative pronoun, the reflexive pronoun, and the intensive pronoun. Listed below are the different types of pronouns.
A personal pronoun refers to a specific person or thing and changes its form to indicate person, number, gender, and case. Additionally, personal pronouns must always correspond to the correct gender being used and number of people or objects being described. For example, you would not use the word “it” to refer to a person. It is also generally not accepted to use a singular version of a pronoun for a plural noun, and vice versa. An exception is the informal, spoken use of they to refer to one person when the sex of that person is unknown: “If somebody took my jacket, they had better give it back.”
When a personal pronoun is connected by a conjunction to another noun or pronoun, its case does not change. We would write “I am going on a vacation”; if Brian is also going on vacation, we would write “Brian and I are going on vacation.” (Notice that Brian gets listed before “I” does.) The same is true when the object form is called for: “Mrs. Benson gave her freshly made cookies to me”; if Brian also received some cookies, we would write “Mrs. Benson gave her freshly made cookies to Brian and me.”
Subjective Personal Pronouns
A subjective personal pronoun indicates that the pronoun is functioning as the subject of the verb or the sentence. The subjective personal pronouns are “I,” “you,” “she,” “he,” “it,” “we,” “you,” “they.”
In the sentences below, each of the highlighted words is a subjective personal pronoun and acts as the subject of the sentence:
I am waiting for the bus.
You were right.
She was the teacher in my class.
He is a lucky man.
It is a sunny day.
We will be there soon. Are you coming over for dinner?
After many attempts, they finally succeeded.
Objective Personal Pronouns
An objective personal pronoun indicates that the pronoun is acting as an object of a verb, compound verb, preposition, or infinitive phrase. The objective personal pronouns are: “me,” “you,” “her,” “him,” “it,” “us,” “you,” and “them.”
In the sentences below, each of the highlighted words is an objective personal pronoun:
John is going to come with me to the beach.
Did you eat any of the cookies?
Mary will meet her at the store.
George is going to give him the keys.
We were all glad that it worked.
Mrs. Benson is going to give us the cookies.
Did you and Mary drive to the store?
I went to visit them yesterday.
A possessive personal pronoun is used to indicate that the pronoun defines who owns (ownership) a particular object or person. In other words, the possessive pronoun shows, or indicates, who the thing being referred to is associated with or belongs to. The possessive personal pronouns are “mine,” “yours,” “hers,” “his,” “its,” “ours,” and “theirs.” Please take note that possessive personal pronouns are very similar to possessive adjectives like “my,” “her,” and “their.”
In the following sentences, each of the highlighted words is an possessive personal pronoun:
The slow car is mine.
The fast car is yours.
His car is very expensive.
The prices in that store are higher than ours.
Theirs will be delivered tomorrow.
In the first sentence the possessive pronoun “mine” functions as a subject complement.
In the second sentence the possessive pronoun “yours” also functions as a subject complement.
In the third sentence the possessive pronoun “his” acts as the subject of the sentence.
In the forth sentence possessive pronoun “ours” also functions as the subject of the sentence.
In the fifth sentence the possessive pronoun “theirs” is the subject of the sentence.
The purpose of a demonstrative pronoun is to point to and identify a noun or a pronoun. They stand in for a person, place, or thing, that must be pointed to. Demonstrative pronouns may function as subjects, objects, or direct objects of the preposition. “This” and “these” refer to things that are nearby either in space or in time, while “that” and “those” refer to things that are farther away in space or time.
The demonstrative pronouns are “this,” “that,” “these,” and “those.” Please note that the demonstrative pronouns are identical to demonstrative adjectives, though obviously, you will use them differently. It is also important to note that “that” can also be used as a relative pronoun.
The demonstrative pronouns “this” and “that” are used to refer to singular nouns or noun phrases.
As the subject:
This has been an interesting year for the U.S. Presidency.
That is whom you should meet at the dinner party.
As an object of the preposition:
Does the shirt you bought go with these pants?
James will put the a new coat of paint on that if necessary.
As a direct object:
Would you deliver this?
The demands on the banker's time had knocked that off the schedule.
The demonstrative pronouns “these” and “those” are used to refer to plural nouns and noun phrases.
As the subject:
These are the preferred fishing rods in this sports store.
Those attending Middle School must wear a uniform.
As an object of the preposition:
Please bring these before you come back to school.
Johnny can play with those.
As a direct object:
Johnny may not find these in time.
Julie gave those to Johnny.
An interrogative pronoun is used to ask questions and is always found in a question. Interrogative pronouns stand in for the answer to the question being asked. The interrogative pronouns are “who,” “whom,” “whose,” “which,” and “what.” It is important to note that “who,” “whom,” or “which” can also be used as a relative pronoun (see the examples below).
The highlighted word in each of the following sentences is an interrogative pronoun and stands in for the answer to the question:
Who was the first person on the moon?
Whom do you think we should invite to the party?
Whose are you going to choose for the science fair exhibit?
Which wants to see the doctor first?
What is his favorite color?
In the examples below, the same words are being used as relative pronouns.
The student whom the teacher chose will do a wonderful job.
Six Flags Over Texas, which is a wonderful theme park, is Johnny's favorite place to visit.
The kid next door, who was just expelled, never did fit into the school.
An indefinite pronoun is a pronoun that refers to an identifiable but not specified person or thing. You can also think of them as words which replace nouns without specifying which noun they replace. An indefinite pronoun conveys the idea of all, any, none, or some. Some of the most common indefinite pronouns are “all,” “another,” “any,” “anybody,” “anyone,” “anything,” “each,” “everybody,” “everyone,” “everything,” “few,” “many,” “nobody,” “none,” “one,” “several,” “some,” “somebody,” and “someone.”
In the examples below, the same words are being used as indefinite pronouns.
Many were invited to the birthday party but only twelve showed up.
(Here “many” acts as the subject of the compound verb “were invited”.)
The room had to be cleaned because everything was thrown onto the floor.
(In this example, “everything” acts as a subject of the compound verb “was thrown.”)
We donated everything we found in the toy chest to the orphanage.
(In this sentence, “everything” is the direct object of the verb “donated.”)
Although they looked everywhere for another one of the coins, they found none.
(In this sentence, “none” is the direct object of the verb “found.”)
Relative pronouns relate to another noun preceding it in the sentence. In doing so, they connect a dependent clause to an antecedent (i.e., a noun that precedes the pronoun.) Therefore, relative pronouns act as the subject or object of the dependent clause. You can use a relative pronoun is used to link one phrase or clause to another phrase or clause. The relative pronouns are “who,” “whom,” “that,” and “which.” The compounds “whoever,” “whomever,” and “whichever” are also relative pronouns.
You can use the relative pronouns “who” and “whoever” to refer to the subject of a clause or a sentence. You can use “whom” and “whomever” to refer to the objects of a verb, a verbal or a preposition.
In each of the following sentences, the highlighted word is a relative pronoun.
You may invite whomever you like to your birthday party.
The relative pronoun whomever is the direct object of the compound verb “may invite.”
In the following sentence, you'll notice that the relative pronoun is the subject:
The lawyer who won the case studied at Harvard.
In the sentence above, the relative pronoun is the subject of the verb “won” and introduces the dependent clause “who won the case.” The independent clause: The lawyer studied at Harvard.
In the following sentence, the relative pronoun is an object in the dependent clause.
The shirt that Bill wore has a stain on the pocket.
In the sentence above, the relative pronoun that relates back to (or is relative to) the noun “shirt.” That is also the object of the verb “wore.” The dependent clause: that Bill wore. The independent clause: The shirt has a stain on the pocket.
The mop which was left in the hall has now been moved into the storage closet.
In the sentence above, which acts as the subject of the compound verb “was left” and introduces the subordinate clause “which was left in the hall.” The subordinate clause acts as an adjective modifying the noun “mop.”
I will read whichever book arrives first.
In the sentence above, whichever modifies the noun “book” and introduces the subordinate clause “whichever book arrives first.” The subordinate clause functions as the direct object of the compound verb “will read.”
In American English, the relative pronoun whom is seldom used. Whom is more formal than who and is very often omitted in speech:
The man whom you have just talked to is my professor.
(Note that who is also possible here.)
However, please note that whom may not be omitted if followed by a preposition:
I have found you the professor for whom you were looking.
The relative pronoun that can only be used in defining clauses. It can also be substituted for who (referring to persons) or which (referring to things). The relative pronoun that is often used in speech, whereas who and which are more common in written English.
William Shakespeare is the man that is considered the greatest in the history of English literature. - spoken, less formal
William Shakespeare is the man who is considered the greatest in the history of English literature. - written, more formal
Although your computer may want to correct it; when referring to things which may be used in the defining clause to put additional emphasis on the explanation. Again, the sentence with which is more formal than the one with that: Please note that since it is the defining clause, there is NO comma used preceding which:
The restaurant that sells my favorite food has recently been closed. - less formal
The restaurant which sells my favorite food has recently been closed. - more formal
You can use a reflexive pronoun to refer back to (or reflect) the subject of the clause or sentence. It is easiest to remember these as the “self”ish pronouns. I say that because it is easiest to identify them by remembering that they are the pronouns that end with “self” or “selves.”
The reflexive pronouns are “myself,” “yourself,” “herself,” “himself,” “itself,” “ourselves,” “yourselves,” and “themselves.” Please note each of these can also act as an intensive pronoun.
Reflexive pronouns always act as OBJECTS not subjects. They require an interaction between the subject or subject(s) and an object. They are typically indirect objects, direct objects and appositives.
Each of the highlighted words in the following sentences is a reflexive pronoun:
They tend to lock themselves out of the house quite often.
Since she baked the cake, Dora saved herself a piece to eat later.
After the party, I asked myself why I had invited so many people.
Due to his failing memory, Richard usually e-mailed notes to himself.
Although Richard promised to cut the grass, we ended up doing it ourselves.