Grammar: Pronoun

Posted December 13, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Grammar Explanations, Self-Editing, Writing

Pronouns act as noun substitutes or refer to nouns that were mentioned previously. They indicate sex (or the lack of it), possess, demonstrate distance, reflect self, ask questions, find the subject, nail a topic down, add extra information, modify, intensify, point the way, and so much more.

It is a part of grammar that allows the reader to understand to what the writer refers, AND doesn’t bore on at the reader by repeating Joe’s name over and over and over. Instead, the pronoun allows the reader to skim over those “invisible” words and still understand what or who is being referred to.

Try out the pronoun test if you’re not sure.

Grammar Explanations is…

…an evolving list of the structural rules and principles that determines where words are placed in phrases or sentences as well as how the language is spoken. Sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better or another “also known as”. Heck, there’s always a better way to explain it, so if it makes quicker and/or better sense, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone… Are there areas of grammar with which you struggle?

If you’d like to track it, bookmark this page. And consider sharing this Grammar Explanation with friends by tweeting it.

Pronoun
Credit to: Towson.edu; English Grammar Online; Oxford Dictionaries
Definition: Words that substitute for nouns showing a contrast of person, gender, number, and case.

Each pronoun must have a clear antecedent, the word for which the pronoun stands.

Pronouns can have different functions in a sentence:

  • Subjective – acts as subject of independent clause
  • Nominative – acts as subject of dependent clause
  • Objective – functions as the recipient of action or are the object of a preposition
  • Possessive – shows possession of something else
Post Contents:
There are a number of different types of pronouns:
Personal Pronoun (Cases)

Pronouns are also:

Pronoun Clauses & Phrases

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Personal Pronoun
Definition: Specifically refers to a particular person, group, or thing.
Number Person
Point-of-View
Gender Personal Pronouns,
a.k.a., Case
Subject /
Nominative
Objective Possessive / Genitive
Singular 1st male/female I me my
mine
2nd male/female you you your
yours
3rd male he him his
female she her her
hers
neuter it it its
Plural 1st male/female we us our
ours
2nd male/female you you your
yours
3rd male / female / neuter they them their
theirs
who
whoever *
whosoever *
whom
whomever *
whose
whosever *
Impersonal one * one’s *
* One is used to refer to the writer, to a group of similar people, or to the average person/people who belong to a particular class. In the U.S. its use seems snobby or may indicate a literary feel; it’s more commonly used in the U.K.

NOTE: Never mix one with another pronoun in the same sentence.

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Test for the Correct Pronoun
Pronouns present confusing choices: Do you use him or he, her or she, or…help! Well, while I’ve been researching, I’ve run across a number of sites which provide an interesting test that really works.

Test by removing one of the subject nouns and see how the sentence reads without it.

The Possibility The Test
John and her are taking a vacation. Her are taking a vacation.
No

Her is taking a vacation.
Eeek

She is taking a vacation.
Phew

So it should be:
John and she are taking a vacation.

Even better:
She and John are taking a vacation.

Mary and me went to the movies. Me went to the movies.
Egads

I went to the movies.
Okay, let’s get Mary involved now.

Mary and I went to the movies.

He came with you and I. He came with I.
Oooh, la-di-da

He came with me.
Oh, much better

He came with you and me.

Us booklovers can’t wait to see what Santa brings us. Us can’t wait to see what Santa brings us.
Um, no.

We can’t wait to see what Santa brings us.

Comparisons with the pronoun + implied verbs
Rule: A conjunction requires a subjective pronoun and implies a verb.
The Possibility The Implication
She’s younger than me.

I’ve not been here as long as she.

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She’s younger than I am.

I’ve not been here as long as she has.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the conjunction
  2. Blue indicates the subjective pronoun
  3. Gray indicates the implied verb
Pronouns are also:
Demonstrative Definition: Indicates if something is near or far from the speaker/writer, has already been mentioned, or indicate the singular or plural.
Return to top List of Demonstrative Pronouns
Singular Plural
Near (the speaker) this these
Far (at a distance from the speaker) that those
  neither
none
none
Give me that.

We bought this last year.

This indicates a particular item, one, or singular, and it is near the speaker.
You take these bags and I’ll take those. These implies the more than one bag and the bags are near the person speaking.
Those implies the bags are a distance away from the speaker.
Can also be used as:
Determiners Hand me that hammer.
Qualifiers She wanted that much money?
Indefinite Definition: Each word in the List of Indefinite Pronouns (below) functions as a noun.
Return to top List of Indefinite Pronouns
Singular Plural
Takes a singular verb Takes a plural verb
one*
each*
(n)either*

someone
somebody
something

anyone
anybody
anything

no one
nobody
nothing

everyone
everybody
everything
both*
few*
many*
several*
Singular Examples Plural Examples
Everyone is happy.

No one knows what to do in this situation.

Both are acceptable.

Few are going to the party.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the pronoun + singular verb
  2. Blue indicates the pronoun + plural verb
Singular with uncountables**
Plural with countables***
some* most* none all*
*     May also be determiners plus.
**   Uncountable means the object of the preposition cannot be counted.
*** Countable obviously, indicates that the object can be counted.
Uncountable Examples Countable Examples
All of her work made its impact on her grades.

Some of the water left its mark on the wooden table.

All of the books were useful in their own ways.

Some of my friends drove their cars to the beach.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the pronoun
  2. Orange indicates the prepositional object that cannot be counted
  3. Blue indicates the prepositional phrase
  4. Yellow indicates the object that can be counted
Intensive Rule: Strengthens the reflexive pronoun by combining a personal pronoun + a reflexive. The personal pronoun generally precedes the reflexive, but has been known to be reversed.
Return to top Standard Reversed
I myself have felt the weight of it. Myself, I have felt the weight of it.
Interrogative Rule: Instead of using the person’s name or the thing being asked about, a wh- word is used. They are questions that require more than a yes or no answer.
Return to top List of Interrogative Pronouns
who
whose
whom which what
Who broke this lamp?

Whose toys are all over the floor?

For whom are you calling?

Which twin are you?

What did you want to know?

Predicate Pronoun Rule: Follows a linking verb and renames or identifies the subject of the sentence. They always have the same form whether they are used as direct, indirect, or prepositional objects (English Town).
Return to top List of Predicate Pronouns
her
him
it
me
them
us
you
Rule: Whatever the form of the sentence — affirmative, negative, interrogative — direct objects or the pronouns replacing them will follow the verb.
Legend:

  1. Green indicates the pronoun OR direct object

Did you buy it?
You didn’t buy it.
You bought it.

Rule: Prepositional objects will come after their preposition.
Legend:

  1. Green indicates the prepositional object
  2. Blue indicates the preposition

Will you come to the store with me?
He left without her.

Rule: Indirect objects generally come after the preposition to.

to + indirect object

Except: If the pronoun comes before the direct object, the preposition to disappears.

pronoun + to + direct object

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the pronoun
  2. Orange indicates the indirect object
  3. Blue indicates the preposition
  4. Yellow indicates the direct object

I have spoken to her.


I gave this present to them.
BUT : I gave them this present.
Rule: When a verb is followed by two or more pronouns, this pronoun formula should be followed.

subject + verb + direct object + indirect object + prepositional object

Legend:

  1. Orange indicates the indirect object
  2. Blue indicates the prepositional object
  3. Yellow indicates the direct object

Don’t tell that to him.

He couldn’t sell the car to them.


Except: If the pronoun comes before the direct object, the preposition to disappears.

pronoun + to + direct object

He gave me it for Christmas.

Don’t tell him that.

He couldn’t sell them the car.

Reflexive Rule: -self pronouns are used to refer back to the subject of the sentence or as an intensifier. They CANNOT replace personal pronouns.
Return to top List of Self Pronouns
myself
yourself
oneself *
himself
herself
themselves
* One’s self refers to the concept of self, as in psychological terms.
Legend:

  1. Green indicates the reflexive pronoun
  2. Blue indicates the pronoun being reflected

I saw myself in the mirror.

Mari did it all by herself!

List of UNacceptable Self Pronouns
hisself ourself theirself
theirselves
Relative Definition: Modifies a word, phrase, or idea in the main clause. The word, phrase, or idea modified is called the antecedent.

Compound relative pronouns are created by adding -ever, so, or soever to one of the relative pronouns.

Rule: Introduces a relative/adjective/adjectival clause, a type of dependent clause.

Return to top List of Relative Pronouns
Please note that in certain situations, what, when, and where can function as relative pronouns.
Refers to People who subject or object pronoun for people I told you about the woman who lives next door.
whoever *
whosoever *
 
whose Possessive pronoun for people, animals, and things Do you know the boy whose mother is a nurse?
whom Object pronoun for people, colloquially, who is generally used I was invited by the professor whom I met at the conference.
whomever *
Refers to Things that
what
whatever *
Subject or object pronoun for people, animals, and things in defining relative clauses which could also use who or which I don’t like the table that stands in the kitchen.
which
whichever *
Subject or object for animals and things
It can also refer to a complete sentence
Do you see the cat which is lying on the roof?

He couldn’t read which surprised me

in which, of which
Pronoun Clauses & Phrases
Relative Clause Definition: Relative clauses modify the antecedent—a word, phrase, or idea—in the main clause. The clause’s relative pronoun can function as a subject, an object, or a possessive pronoun. (Purdue OWL).

There are two types of relative pronoun clauses:

  1. Restrictive, a.k.a., defining
  2. Non-restrictive, a.k.a., non-defining

A.K.A., Adjectival clause or adjective clause

Return to top Rule:

  1. Contains a subject and a verb
  2. Begins with a relative pronoun or a relative adverb
  3. Functions as an adjective answering the what kind?, how many?, or which one? questions

The clause may be essential (no commas) or nonessential (needs commas).

Relative Pronoun Relative Adjective
He didn’t tell what he was going to wear.

He didn’t tell me what suit he was going to wear (English Forums).

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the relative pronoun
  2. Blue indicates the relative adjective
Restrictive Relative Pronoun Definition: Relative pronouns that introduce a restrictive relative clause are NOT separated from the main clause by a comma, as they add essential information about the antecedent in the main clause. The information is crucial for understanding the sentence’s meaning correctly and cannot be omitted. In other words, without the restrictive relative clause, the sentence does not make sense (Purdue OWL).
Return to top A.k.a., defining relative pronoun, essential relative pronoun

That can only be used in restrictive clauses, e.g., that hammer, that time when we, that woman, etc. It can also be substituted for who (referring to persons *) or which (referring to things) in informal English. Whereas that is often used while speaking, who and which are more common in formal written English.

* In my opinion, using that to refer to people is disrespectful.

Example:
The bucket that Jack took up the hill was leaky.

Can you believe he went to rescue that princess?

No, not that hammer! That hammer.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the restrictive relative pronoun
Non-Restrictive Relative Pronoun Definition: Relative pronouns that introduce a non-restrictive relative clauses ARE separated from the main clause by a comma (in most instances) and provide non-essential information about the antecedent in the main clause. The information is not crucial for understanding the sentence’s meaning correctly and can be omitted without affecting the sentence’s meaning. In other words, non-restrictive relative clauses are an aside that adds extra information.

Which is the preferred relative pronoun for indicating that a relative clause is non-restrictive (Purdue OWL).

A.k.a., non-defining pronoun

Return to top Example:
The doctor, whom I saw last week, is sick today.

The bucket, which was leaking, was carried up the hill.

The man in charge, whoever he is, should be through that guarded door.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the non-restrictive relative pronoun clause
  2. Blue indicates the non-restrictive relative pronoun
Negative Pronoun Phrase A.k.a., Sometimes referred to as a negative pronoun
Return to top Partial List of Negative Pronouns
no one
no-one
nobody
neither
none
nothing
Example:
I saw no one at the theater.

There was nothing that could be done.

None of us had anything to do with it.

I asked around, but nobody knows anything.

Reciprocal Pronoun Phrase Definition: Indicates two-way action.
Partial List of Reciprocal Pronoun Phrases
each other one another
Example:
We should be helping each other.

They don’t want one another.

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