A pronoun is a word which is used in place of a proper noun or a common noun. Generally, a pronoun takes the place of a particular noun. The pronoun refers to its antecedent. A pronoun helps us avoid unnecessary repetition in our writing and speech.
In other words, words that can be used instead of a noun are called pronouns. The word “pronoun” means “for a noun”.
Let’s understand pronouns with the help of these example sentences:
- Look at Mike. Mike is a good boy.
- Mike loves to study. Mike is good at skating.
Instead of Mike we can use ‘he ‘.
Now read these sentences again:
- Look at Mike. He is a good boy.
- He loves to study. He is good at skating.
The word ‘he ‘takes the place of Mike and is called pronoun.
Types of Pronouns
- Personal Pronoun . Demonstrative Pronouns
- Relative Pronoun . Interrogative Pronouns
- Emphatic Pronoun . Possessive Pronouns
- Indefinite Pronoun . Reflexive Pronouns
Personal pronouns are used to replace nouns or noun phrases.
Personal pronouns stand for three persons:
- First Person
- Second Person
- Third Person
Personal pronoun of the first person stands for the person(s) speaking.
(I, we, me, us)
- This car belongs to us.
- I won the award.
- The matter is between Chris and me.
- We shall stand by the truth.
Personal pronoun of the second person stands for the person(s) spoken to.
(You, thou, thee)
- It is to thee that I owe a debt of gratitude.
- Only you are allowed to attend the party.
- Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
- Why are you crying…?
Personal pronoun of the third person stands for the person(s) spoken of.
(He, she, it, they, them, him, her)
- I heard him telling them about the movie.
- He agreed to look after the baby.
- The headmistress likes her a lot.
- She asked me to review it by this evening.
- They went to the museum.
- It is an endangered species now.
- They were planning to hide it under the bed.
Personal pronouns for people: I, you, he, she, we, they, me, you, him, her, us, them
Personal pronouns for things and animals: it, they, them
Relative pronouns are used to join sentences or clauses, and they refer back to the nouns going before them.
Relative Pronouns List
- who . which
- whom . whose
- This is the lady who helped me.
- This is the book that my mother wrote.
- There is the man whose horse won the race.
- This is the house which belongs to my great-grandfather.
- This is the person whom we met at the party.
- This is the letter box that I was talking about.
- A chair is a piece of furniture which we use for sitting.
- I found the ring that I thought I had lost.
- Jack is the boy whose sister is a famous tennis player.
- This is the boy who scored the highest marks.
In relative pronouns we use the following pronoun words:
- For people: who, whom
- For animals and thing: which
- And to show possession: whose, that
Emphatic pronouns are pronouns used for highlighting, stressing or emphasizing the noun or pronoun that comes before it. An emphatic pronoun can be omitted without changing the sense of a sentence.
Emphatic Pronouns List
- Joseph himself went to check the gate.
- He himself is responsible for those low grades.
- Jane herself looks into the nitty-gritty of running the house.
- They themselves admitted to their mistakes.
- The book itself tells you all about pronouns.
- I myself am a slow walker.
- The children themselves made the plan.
- The village itself is very small.
- We ourselves will be completing the assignment.
- Ruskin Bond himself is a great author.
An indefinite pronoun refers to an indefinite or general person or thing. These pronouns refer to people in a vague and general meaning.
- All . none
- any . nothing
- each . several
- everyone . some
- few . somebody
- many . everything
- neither . nobody
- anyone . someone
- Nobody attended the meeting. . Everyone was smiling.
- Something is wrong there. . He never does favour to others.
- Everything was told prior to the meeting. . Many of them were injured.
An indefinite pronoun can stand for singular, plural or at times for both. The following lists some indefinite pronouns terms that are commonly used.
- anyone . nothing
- anything . neither
- anybody . nobody
- each . no one
- everybody . one
- everything . someone
- either . somebody
- everyone . something
- little . much
- both . many
- few . others
Singular or Plural
- all . most . none
- Every season one of the racers attempts to break Schumacher’s record. (Singular)
- Both have paid homage to their great ancestors. (Plural)
- All of the players we count on are out of form. (Plural)
- Almost all the money in my bank account has been spent. (Singular)
Demonstrative pronouns point out people or objects. There are four demonstrative pronouns.
Demonstrative Pronouns List
- this . these
- that . those
- Those are my neighbour’s dogs.
- This is my bicycle.
- These are cakes and those are burgers.
- In those days, we were young and innocent.
- This is a present from my uncle.
- That is the sound of a factory siren.
- Are those your classmates…?
- That is not the best thing to do.
When these words appear before nouns, they become demonstrative adjectives.
- This car is better than that. . These animals are wilder than those.
In above sentences, ‘this’ and ‘these’ are demonstrative adjectives, and ‘that’ and ‘those’ are demonstrative adjectives, and ‘that’ and ‘those’ are demonstrative pronouns.
Interrogative pronouns ask questions. Compound interrogative pronouns (those ending in ‘ever’) are used to express surprise, confusion, irritation, etc.
Interrogative Pronoun List
- which . what
- who . whoever
- whom . whomever
- whatever . whichever
- Which is your book? . Whichever came first?
- Who is there at the door? . Whose is this dress?
- Whatever are you doing? . What do you mean?
- Who is making noise? . Whoever came to the shop?
- Whom were you speaking to? . Whomever should tom invite?
A possessive pronoun points towards the owner of something.
Possessive Pronouns List
- his . ours
- here . theirs
- Mine . yours
- My aunt is a Graphic Designer. This computer is hers.
- The blue hat is mine. Yours is on the upper shelf.
Often the words used as possessive pronouns are slight modifications of the words used as possessive adjectives. So, we may get confused at times.
Remember, that there is a major distinction between them. While possessive pronouns are used in place of nouns, possessive adjectives modify or describe nouns.
- This dress is mine. . This is her school.
- This is my dress. . This house is theirs.
- That school is hers. . This is their
In these sentences ‘mine’, ‘hers’ and ‘theirs’ are possessive pronouns, and ‘my’, ‘her’ and ‘their’ are possessive adjectives.
Reflexive pronouns are pronouns where the subject and the object are the same person(s), i.e. when the action of the verb refers back to the doer. Reflexive pronouns are formed by using ‘self’ in the singular and ‘selves’ in the plural.
Reflexive Pronouns List
- yourself . itself
- myself . yourselves
- himself . themselves
- herself . ourselves
- You are old enough to dress yourself.
- Suddenly, I found myself in a dark corner.
- The dog covered itself with dirt.
- She contradicted herself, unknowingly.
- They were discussing amongst themselves.
- The only people there were ourselves.
- John reminded himself that he had to try harder.
Incorrect and Correct sentences based on Pronoun
- Incorrect He absented from the school yesterday.
- Correct He absented himself from the school yesterday.
- Incorrect He availed of the opportunity.
- Correct He availed himself of the opportunity.
- Incorrect Don’t pride on your victory.
- Correct Don’t pride yourself on your victory.
- Incorrect The girl wants to get herself married.
- Correct The girl wants to get married.
- Incorrect The climate of India is hotter than England.
- Correct The climate of India is hotter than that of England.
- Incorrect Everybody will get their share.
- Correct Everybody will get his share.
- Incorrect: Both did not come.
- Correct: Neither came.
- Incorrect: Both of them did not pass the test.
- Correct: Neither of them passed the test.
In negative clauses, we use ‘neither’ not both.
- Incorrect: Each of these girls sing very well.
- Correct: Each of these girls sings very well.
After each and every, we use a singular verb.
- Incorrect: We all did not go.
- Correct: None of us went.
- Incorrect: We all had not been invited.
- Correct: None of us had been invited.
- Incorrect: One should love his country.
- Correct: One should love one’s country.
- Incorrect: ‘Have you got a pencil?’ ‘No, I haven’t got.’
- Correct: ‘Have you got a pencil?’ ‘No, I haven’t got one.’ / ‘No, I don’t have one’.
Have is a transitive verb. It needs an object to complete its meaning.
- Incorrect: ‘Is he at home?’ ‘Yes, I think.’
- Correct: ‘Is he at home?’ ‘Yes, I think so.’
- Incorrect: We enjoyed during the holidays.
- Correct: We enjoyed ourselves during the holidays.
Enjoy is a transitive verb. It requires an object.
- Incorrect: The boy who works hard he will get the prize.
- Correct: The boy who works hard will get the prize.
- Correct: Whoever works hard will get the prize.
- Common Errors with Pronouns – Part II
- Incorrect: The boy who works hard he will win.
- Correct: The boy who works hard will win.
This sentence has two clauses ‘the boy will win’ and ‘who works hard’ and each clause has its own subject. There is no need to use a pronoun when the noun it stands for is already present in the clause.
- Incorrect: Whoever does best he will get a prize.
- Correct: Whoever does best will get a prize.
- Incorrect: Who painted this picture? Myself
- Correct: Who painted this picture? I (myself)
An emphatic pronoun (e.g. myself, himself, themselves, yourself) cannot be used as the subject of a sentence.
- Incorrect: I and he are brothers.
- Correct: He and I are brothers.
It is considered conceited to put I first when there are two subjects.
- Incorrect: I with my friends watched the show.
- Correct: I watched the show with my friends.
- Incorrect: He himself hurt due to his carelessness.
- Correct: He hurt himself due to his carelessness.
When a personal pronoun is used as subject it should not be separated from its verb if possible.
- Incorrect: He is taller than me.
- Correct: He is taller than I (am).
The pronoun following than should be in the same case as the pronoun preceding it. Note that this rule is no longer strictly followed and the sentence ‘He is taller than me’ is considered correct.
- Incorrect: None of us have seen him.
- Correct: None of us has seen him.
The words every, each, none etc., are singular in number and should be followed by singular verbs.
- Incorrect: People starve when he has no money.
- Correct: People starve when they have no money.
The noun people is plural in number. The pronoun used instead of a plural noun should be plural in number.
- Incorrect: My car is better than my friend.
- Correct: My car is better than that of my friend.
- Incorrect: The size of the shoe should be the same as this shoe.
- Correct: The size of the shoe should be the same as that of this shoe.
- Incorrect: His teaching was like Buddha.
- Correct: His teaching was like that of Buddha.
In a comparative sentence we must be careful to compare the same part of two things. That of, these of and those of.
- Incorrect: None but I turned up.
- Correct: None but me turned up.
- Incorrect: They are all wrong but I.
- Correct: They are all wrong but me.
When but is used as a preposition it means except. The preposition but should be followed by a pronoun in the objective case.
Common Errors with Pronouns – Part I
- Incorrect: Each of these girls sing well.
- Correct: Each of these girls sings well.
- Incorrect: None of my student attended the class today.
- Correct: None of my students attended the class today.
- Incorrect: One of my servant has gone on leave.
- Correct: One of my servants has gone on leave.
- Incorrect: Some of my servants has gone on leave.
- Correct: Some of my servants have gone on leave.
The noun following one of, none of, some of and similar expressions must be plural in number, but the verb agrees in number with the subject of the sentence. In the sentence ‘Each of these girls sings well’, the real subject is each which is a singular word. It should therefore be followed by a singular verb.
Other singular words which often cause confusion are: every, either, neither, none, much and person.
- Incorrect: Some of my friends has decided to go on a picnic.
- Correct: Some of my friends have decided to go on a picnic.
Some is a plural word. It must be followed by a plural verb.
- Incorrect: Both did not come.
- Correct: Neither came.
The expression both…not is not correct in standard English. Instead, we use neither.
- Incorrect: One should respect his parents.
- Correct: One should respect one’s parents.
One, if used in a sentence, should be used throughout. More examples are given below:
- One should take care of one’s health.
- One should love one’s country.
- Incorrect: One should work hard.
- Correct: A man/woman/boy/girl should work hard.
The sentence ‘One should work hard’, is not wrong but in standard English the use of one as subject should be avoided when possible.
- Incorrect: Here is the bottle: please fill.
- Correct: Here is the bottle: please fill it.
- Incorrect: Have you a pen? I have not got.
- Correct: Have you a pen? I have not got one.
- Incorrect: He enjoyed at the party.
- Correct: He enjoyed himself at the party.
The verbs fill, enjoy and got are transitive. All transitive verbs must have an expressed object.
- Incorrect: I asked for his bicycle but he didn’t lend me.
- Correct: I asked for his bicycle but he didn’t lend it to me.
- Incorrect: Please give your book.
- Correct: Please give me/him/her/them your book.
Some transitive verbs like give and lend must have two expressed objects.
Correct Use of Nouns and Pronouns Part II
- Pronouns used as complements of to be
Grammarians formerly recommended that a pronoun used as the complement of the verb to be should be in the nominative case. Today the use of the nominative case in such cases is considered extremely formal and over-correct. Instead, we use the objective case.
- It is me. (Formal: It is I.)
- It was him. (Formal: It was he.)
A pronoun used as the object of a verb or a preposition should be in the objective case.
- You can’t trust him. (NOT You can’t trust he.)
- We have invited them. (NOT We have invited they.)
There is really no difference between you and him.
(Here the pronouns you and him are used as the objects of the preposition between.)
- He has given great trouble to us.
(Here we use the objective case because the pronoun us is the object of the verb to.)
A pronoun must agree with its antecedent in number, person and gender.
- All students should bring their books.
(Here the pronoun their agrees with its antecedent students in number and person.)
- John has brought his book.
(Here the pronoun his agrees with its antecedent John in number, person and gender.)
- Each of the girls gave her own version of the story.
- I am not one of those who believe everything they hear.
(Here the antecedent of the pronoun they is those and not I.)
Some grammarians recommend that the pronoun of the masculine gender should be used to refer back to anybody, everybody, anyone, each etc., when the sex is unknown.
- Everybody ran as fast as he could.
- Anybody can do it if he tries.
In modern English it is more common to use plural pronouns to refer back to anybody, everyone etc.
- Everybody should bring their books. (Less formal)
- Everybody should bring his books. (Very formal)
- Everybody ran as fast as they could.
- Each of them had their share. (Less formal)
- Each of them had his share. (Very formal)
Who and whom
Who is in the nominative case; whom is in the objective case. I don’t know who (not whom) they were.
The student, whom you thought so highly of, has failed to win the first prize. In modern English whom is unusual except in a formal style.
- Who did you meet? (Less formal)
- Whom did you meet? (Very formal)
Correct Use of Nouns and Pronouns
Countable and uncountable nouns
Words like flower, book, tree, chair and pen are countable nouns because they refer to objects that can be counted. Countable nouns can have plural forms. They can also be used with numbers and the articles a/an.
- There is a book on the table.. She sat in a chair.
- There are two books on the table.. We need to buy some chairs.
Words like milk, water, knowledge and wisdom are uncountable nouns because they refer to objects or qualities that cannot be counted. Uncountable nouns do not normally have plural forms. They are also not used with the articles a/an.
- Milk is rich in nutrients. (NOT A milk/milks …)
- We subsist on rice. (NOT … a rice/rices.)
- Water is essential for the existence of life.
Some common uncountable nouns are: furniture, advice, news, information, business, work, weather, traffic, scenery and bread.
- Wrong: He gave me an advice.
- Right: He gave me a piece of advice. OR He gave me some advice.
We normally use a phrase like a piece of/ a bottle of to talk about a unit of an uncountable thing.
Examples are given below:
- A bottle of water (NOT A water)
- A piece of work (NOT A work)
- A piece of / a bar of soap