What is a Pronoun?
The pronoun performs a similar function to the noun. If you have studied our article – What is a Noun? – you would have learned that a noun is a naming word telling us about the subject or object of our sentence. Now, in a usual sentence, we talk about the noun (subject) quite a lot. Can you imagine how tiresome it would be if we had to keep repeating the noun every time we referred to it? So instead of using a noun over and over again, we put a pronoun in place of the subject of our sentence.
In essence, we use pronouns to avoid repetition. A pronoun is a word that is used instead of a noun or noun phrase. Pronouns refer to either a noun that has already been mentioned or to a noun that does not need to be named specifically.
The example below shows how displeasing our speech would sound if we did not have pronouns available to us:
- Sarah went to the shop to buy Sarah a loaf of bread because Sarah had heard that Sarah’s mother was going to be visiting for lunch.
If we had to listen to a story that sounded like the one above, most of us would very quickly lose interest in the speaker! How can we improve the example above by using pronouns? Let’s take out the proper noun Sarah this time, replace it with a few pronouns and see the result:
- Sarah went to the shop to buy herself a loaf of bread because she had heard that her mother was going to be visiting for lunch.
Clearly, pronouns are an essential part of most sentences. There are many different types of pronouns and some of them can fall under more than one category. Don’t let all the subcategories below intimidate you. We have included some helpful hints that will help you remember which pronoun goes where. Be aware that pronouns are very versatile and can change depending on their usage either as a subject or as an object –
- He likes to help others, but won’t allow others to help him.
|PERSON||PERSONAL (Subject)||PRONOUN (Object)||POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS||POSSESSIVE ADJECTIVES (these are not pronouns)|
|3rd person (male)||he||him||his||his|
|3rd person (female)||she||her||hers||her|
|3rd person (neutral)||it||it||its|
Personal pronouns replace people or things. They can be singular or plural, depending on what they are replacing. They are often twinned with possessive adjectives:
- I do my work
- You do your work
- She does her work
- He does his work
- They do their work
Possessive pronouns indicate ownership.
- This is hers, not yours
- This house used to be mine, but now it is ours
- I have the money, so we can spend it on ourselves
Reflexive pronouns reflect back to the noun or the pronoun. They are used when the original noun performs an action on itself. They usually end in –self or –selves
- Mary (she) sees herself in the mirror
- Jack (he) cut himself with the razor
- I took myself to the movies
- Musa always wanted to make a name for himself
- They need to be careful not to harm themselves
These pronouns interrogate or ask questions.
- Who (which person) came to tea?
- Whose (which person’s) jersey is this?
- To whom (to which person) does this belong?
- What (action) are you doing?
- Which (one) is the hotel that you recommend?
Demonstrative pronouns point out a specific person or thing. They are indicated by the words this, that, these or those.
- This is not the way that we do things
- That has to go
- Those kids are a little too loud for me
- These shoes are so uncomfortable
Indefinite pronouns refer to people or things in a general way, rather than specifically. They are indefinite in number: you, one, they, someone, anyone, no-one, everyone
- One must remember to apply sunscreen
- Everyone came to the party
- Someone mustremember to feed the cat
- No-one heard her over all the cheering
- They all went down to Sun City for the weekend
These perform the function of conjunctions by joining or connecting one part of the sentence to another. The box below shows the six relative pronouns in common usage:
|Refer to PEOPLE||Refer to ANIMALS OR INANIMATE OBJECTS|
Relative pronouns usually replace nouns or pronouns. Take a look at Some examples are below:
- This is my sister. She is visiting today.
- This is my sister who is visiting today. (Note that the ‘she’ has been dropped)
- This is my sister. I am visiting her today.
- This is my sister whom I am visiting today. (whom is used if it replaces an object i.e. her)
- I felt proud of the girl. Her results were excellent.
- I felt proud of the girl whose results were excellent. (whose replaces the possessive noun ‘her’)
- I like the boy. I like his honesty.
- What I like about the boy is his honesty. (‘What’ allows us to join two sentences and avoid the repetition of the word ‘like’)
Always remember that Relative pronouns are placed close to the nouns to which they refer. If not, the sense of what is being said or written will be lost. Have a look at the two examples below and note why the first one is incorrect:
- I have a ring in my jewellery box that sparkles. (INCORRECT – What sparkles – the ring or the jewellery box?)
- I have a ring that sparkles in my jewellery box. (CORRECT)
When using the pronoun which, a preposition very often has to precede it. This is done to avoid ending a sentence on a preposition. We have included two examples of this below given first incorrect usage of the relative pronoun, followed by the correct usage of the part of speech:
- This is the house I was born in. (INCORRECT)
- This is the house in which I was born. (CORRECT)
- This is the story we spoke of. (INCORRECT)
- This is the story of which we spoke. (CORRECT)
COMMON ERRORS IN THE USE OF PRONOUNS
As with most of the parts of speech we find, there are a few very common errors that we can identify and steer clear from misusing ourselves. The pronouns I and me are frequently confused as well as the possessive adjective its and it’s. Let us consider them below:
The pronouns I and me
An easy hint to remember to decide whether to use I or me is to leave out the ‘other person’ and read it as if you are alone in the sentence. Let’s try it –
- John and I/me are going to the movies.
- I am going to the movies. (CORRECT)
- Me am going to the movies. (INCORRECT)
Therefore, John and I are going to the movies.
- Dad gave the tickets to John and I/me.
- Dad gave the tickets to I. (INCORRECT)
- Dad gave the tickets to me. (CORRECT)
Therefore, Dad gave the tickets to John and me.
- Between you and I/me, we shall achieve our goals.
- Between you and I, we shall achieve our goals. (INCORRECT)
- Between you and me, we shall achieve our goals. (CORRECT)
- The prize will be shared between you and me. (CORRECT)
The possessive adjective its and the abbreviation it’s
its – possessive adjective
- The bird is sitting on eggs in its nest (the nest belonging to the bird)
it’s – it is
- It’s getting colder and wetter by the day (It is)
CONCLUSION – What is a Pronoun?
In this article, we have looked at the correct use of pronouns in a sentence as well as the different type of pronouns that are available to be utilized. We have learned that pronouns are used to avoid repetition of the subject of our sentence.
By replacing a noun with a pronoun, we can take away the need to keep on repeating the noun subject we are talking about and thereby overusing.
Using pronouns in our speech and written word will make it more concise and easy to follow. Test how well you understood the information above by writing down the seven type of pronouns we have discussed as well as their definitions.
This website is designed for those who are excelling at English as well as the student that may struggle to grasp some basic concepts. Forgot some Collective nouns? Poetry Turning out to be a problem to interpret? Looking for tough concepts to be easily explained? Look no further!
Our development team hope you enjoy the content provided. Please leave us a comment below should you have any queries or concerns. This content is designed to assist the end-user with the Department of education syllabus.