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.
|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:
|Definition: Specifically refers to a particular person, group, or thing.|
|Objective||Possessive / Genitive|
|3rd||male / female / neuter||they||them||their
|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.
|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.
Her is taking a vacation.
She is taking a vacation.
So it should be:
|Mary and me went to the movies.||Me went to the movies.
I went to the movies.
Mary and I went to the movies.
|He came with you and I.||He came with I.
He came with me.
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.
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.
|She’s younger than I am.
I’ve not been here as long as she has.
|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|
|Near (the speaker)||this||these|
|Far (at a distance from the speaker)||that||those|
|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|
|Takes a singular verb||Takes a plural verb|
|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.
|Singular with uncountables**
Plural with countables***
* 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.
|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
|Return to top||List of Interrogative Pronouns|
|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|
|Rule: Whatever the form of the sentence — affirmative, negative, interrogative — direct objects or the pronouns replacing them will follow the verb.|
Did you buy it?
|Rule: Prepositional objects will come after their preposition.|
Will you come to the store with me?
|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.
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
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.
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
|* One’s self refers to the concept of self, as in psychological terms.|
I saw myself in the mirror.
Mari did it all by herself!
|List of UNacceptable
|Relative||Definition: Modifies a word, phrase, or idea in the main clause. The word, phrase, or idea modified is called the antecedent.
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.|
|whose||Possessive pronoun for people, animals, and things||Do you know the boy whose mother is a nurse?|
|whom||Object pronoun for people, colloquially,
whois generally used
|I was invited by the professor whom I met at the conference.|
|Refers to Things||that
|Subject or object pronoun for people, animals, and things in defining relative clauses which could also use
|I don’t like the table that stands in the kitchen.|
|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:
A.K.A., Adjectival clause or adjective clause
|Return to top||Rule:
|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).
|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.
|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.
|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.
|Negative Pronoun Phrase||A.k.a., Sometimes referred to as a negative pronoun|
|Return to top||Partial List of Negative Pronouns|
|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|
|We should be helping each other.
They don’t want one another.