What are pronouns?
The Quick AnswerPronouns replace nouns. If we didn't have pronouns, we'd have to keep repeating our nouns and that would make our sentences very cumbersome and repetitive. Pronouns are usually short words.
When most people think of pronouns, words like he, she, and they spring to mind, but there are several different types of pronouns, including personal pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, interrogative pronouns, indefinite pronouns, possessive pronouns, reciprocal pronouns, relative pronouns, reflexive pronouns, and intensive pronouns.
PronounsMost of the time, a pronoun is used to replace a noun. The following are all pronouns: he, she, they, none, and which. There are lots more. As you can see, pronouns are usually short words. They are used to make sentences less cumbersome and less repetitive.
- Clutching the coin, Maria ran to the shops. She went straight to the counter and bought the sweets. (She is a pronoun. In this example, it replaces the noun Maria. Pronouns are used for brevity. Imagine how wearisome a long prose would be if the writer used the full noun (in this case Maria every time.)
- The 8-mile walk passes through pasture, parkland and woodland. It takes you alongside many points of interest including a disused airfield. (It is a pronoun. In this example, it replaces the 8-mile walk.)
- Tell the finance team that they can use the minibus tomorrow. (They is a pronoun. It replaces the finance team.)
More Than Just the Personal PronounsI, you, he, she, it, we, they, and who are all pronouns. As these pronouns often replace nouns representing people, they are called the personal pronouns. When most people think of pronouns, it is the personal pronouns that usually spring to mind, but, in fact, there are several different types of pronouns, including:
- Personal pronouns (e.g., he, they)
- Demonstrative pronouns (e.g., this, these)
- Interrogative pronouns (e.g., which, who)
- Indefinite pronouns (e.g., none, several)
- Possessive pronouns (e.g., his, your)
- Reciprocal pronouns (e.g., each other, one another)
- Relative pronouns (e.g., which, where)
- Reflexive pronouns (e.g., itself, himself)
- Intensive pronouns (e.g., itself, himself)
Quick TestClick on the personal pronouns:
Do a harder version of this test
Personal Pronouns Change!Personal pronouns change depending on the role they place in the sentence. In general, this does not cause difficulties for native English speakers. The changes are:
|I > me||he > him||she > her|
|we > us||they > them||who > whom|
You and it never change. The pronouns shown first above (like I and he) are said to be in the subjective case. The second versions (like me and him) are said to be in the objective case. This is covered more in the lessons Who & Whom.
Who & Whom
Who is the personal pronoun which causes the most confusion. In short, use who when it is the subject of a verb, else use whom.
- Who saw whom first? (The first who is the subject of the verb to see. The whom is not the subject of a verb.)
This is covered more in the lesson Who & Whom.