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What is a Pronoun?

Deduce What a Pronoun is With its Meaning, Types, and Examples

This article gives the definition and types of pronouns, along with examples to help you understand the concept better. Here's more...
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Mar 12, 2018
Sam went to the party in the evening. Sam ate pizzas and drank juice at the party. Sam met all his friends at the party. Sam enjoyed so much at the party that Sam forgot that Sam had to come home by eleven.

Don't you think that the paragraph above sounds funny? Thinking why? For a reason that the word 'Sam' has been used repetitively. In the same example , replace 'Sam' with 'he' a few times, and it won't sound that absurd anymore! That's the usage of pronouns in the English language. A pronoun is defined as a word which is used to replace or refer to a noun, noun phrase, or some other pronoun. Some common examples of pronouns are - he, she, you, it, they, myself, herself, yourself, etc.

Types of Pronouns

There are in all eight kinds of pronouns used in the English language. Here is each of them explained with a suitable example.

Personal Pronouns
Example: he, she, we, I, me, we, us, you, her, him, they, them, it
These pronouns indicate the person, gender (masculine or feminine), as well as the number (singular or plural). For instance, in the sentence 'When Kate was sixteen, she went to Paris', we know the gender (it is female), number (singular), as well as the person (Kate) through the word 'she'.

Relative Pronouns
Example: that, who, whom, which
These pronouns are used to join two phrases together, with one of them being relative or referring to a noun. For instance, New York is one place that I have always enjoyed traveling to. Here the pronoun 'that' refers to the noun 'New York', and the relative clause is 'that I have always enjoyed traveling to'.

Demonstrative Pronouns
Example: these, those, this, that
These pronouns are used to refer to nouns which are either far or near. For instance, 'These are my books' or 'Those airplanes can fly very high'. Pronouns 'these' and 'those' refer to 'books' which are near, and 'airplanes' that are far, respectively.

Interrogative Pronoun
Example: who, what, which, whose, whom
As the name suggests, interrogative pronouns are used to ask questions about a noun. For example, 'Whose clothes are lying on the bed?'. Here, 'whose' is used to ask the name of the person which is a noun.

Possessive Pronoun
Example: his, hers, ours, yours, theirs
According to the rules of English grammar, possessive pronouns are used to indicate ownership of a person. Some examples are 'This house is theirs', 'This pen is yours'.

Intensive Pronoun
Example: himself, herself, yourself, themselves, myself
These pronouns are used to reinforce the noun or the pronoun used before them. For instance, 'Tina herself didn't want to go there' or 'He himself was the culprit'. Here, the pronoun 'herself' reinforces noun 'Tina' in the former sentence, and the pronoun 'himself' reinforces another pronoun 'he' in the latter.

Reflexive Pronoun
Example: himself, herself, yourself, themselves, myself
These pronouns are the same as intensive pronouns, differing only in usage. Reflexive pronouns are used to refer to the noun or the pronoun in the sentence. For example, 'Kate went to meet Catherine but herself changed her mind and came back'. Here, 'herself' refers back to 'Kate'.

Indefinite Pronoun
Example: everything, each, none, everyone, many, someone, anything, few, all, another, several, somebody
As the name suggests, these pronouns are used to refer to things which are not definite or specific. For example, 'Each of her classmates got a candy for her'. Here 'each' is non-specific, as nobody knows the exact number or names of classmates.

Antecedent and Reference

Antecedent
As defined above, pronouns are used to refer, re-enforce, or replace a noun. This noun which is referred to or replaced by pronouns is known as the antecedent.

Example : Tina went to the market alone. She bought T-shirts of various colors.

In this sentence, 'she' is the pronoun replacing 'Tina', which is a noun. So, in this sentence 'Tina' is the antecedent.

Reference
Pronouns are used to refer to nouns. However, for their correct grammar usage, it must be clear which noun its being referred to. A common pronoun reference error people make is to have two nouns before a pronoun. To learn what pronoun reference is, let's take an example.

Example : Linda called up Lily while she was in Paris.

In this sentence, it is unclear whether the pronoun 'she' is referring to the noun 'Linda' or 'Lily'.

Here's hoping that, with these examples and definitions, the concept has been explained clearly. For learning English, knowledge of correct usage of pronouns is very important!