What is a Pronoun

What is a Pronoun? Definition and Examples

I welcome you to this post on pronouns. We have seen what Parts of Speech are but here we want to answer the question: What is a Pronoun? In answering the question, we will consider the definition of a pronoun, its different types, the functions of pronouns and we will provide illustrative examples for the purpose of clarity.

Kindly watch the lecture on Pronoun on our YouTube channel, Akademia EduConsult.

Pronouns: A Definition

A pronoun is an identifying word that we can use instead of a noun. It means that we can inflect a pronoun in the same way we inflect nouns. Pronouns are used instead of nouns to avoid repetition of names, places, things, concept, ideas, etc. that nouns are used to denote. Pronouns are also used to ensure referential relationships between elements in a sentence.

Function of Pronouns

As a Subject of the Sentence

  • That is John. (him, you)
  • We can do the job.

As Object of the Sentence

  • He killed it.
  • She slapped me.

As Object Complement

  • We can prove the thief to be you.
  • He regards his friend as me.

As Prepositional Complement

  • Give the keys to him.
  • He is fond of her.

Types of Pronouns

Personal Pronouns

These refer to the persons speaking at a particular time. We have the first, second and third persons. The table below explains the persons in their forms:

Singular Plural Subject Object
1st Person I We I/We Me/Us
2nd Person You You You You
3rd Person He/She/It They He/She/It Them

Possessive Pronouns

These show possession and they have various forms. The ones that function as adjectives are called “Pronominal Adjectives”.

  • This is my
  • This book is mine.

A pronoun can function as a modifier and modifiers are adjectives. A modifier is a word, phrase or clause that gives more information, changes or enhances the meaning of another word in a sentence, usually the noun headword.

Examples of possessive pronouns are shown in the table below:

Singular Plural
Subject Object Subject Object
1st Person My Mine Our Ours
2nd Person Yours Yours Yours Yours
3rd Person His/Hers/Its His/Hers/Its Their Theirs
  • One of its legs is faulty.
  • The bag is theirs.
  • The key is mine.

Reflexive Pronouns

They are pronouns that end in “self” or “selves” and which refer back to a noun or pronoun that has occurred earlier in the same sentence. Examples include:

  • The lady drove herself.
  • He cut himself while shaving.
  • She has cured herself of the habit.

They are also referred to as Emphatic Pronouns because they are sometimes used for emphasis. Consider these examples:

  • She posted the letter herself.
  • The children washed the plates themselves.
  • We stack the books ourselves.

In addition, Reflexive Pronouns are used to indicate that something or someone is alone. For example:

  • The house stands by itself.
  • She lives by herself.

Reciprocal Pronouns

These are pronouns used when the action expressed by the verb is shared by the parties concerned. In other words, Reciprocal Pronouns are used to convey the idea of reciprocity or a two-way relationship. Reciprocal Pronouns are ‘each other’ and ‘one another’. The former is usually associated with two people while the latter is associated with more than two people, but this rule is not rigid. Check the examples below:

  • They do not love each other anymore.
  • The children were calling one another names.
  • The two families were always criticising one another.
  • Jane and Janet like each other.

Demonstrative Pronouns

These are pronouns that point to specific persons, places or things. They are four (4) in number and they have singular and plural forms. They are: ‘this’, ‘that’, ‘these’, and ‘those’. These four pronouns should not be confused with ‘Demonstrative Adjectives/Determiners’ which are used to indicate things or people in relation to the speaker or writer in space or time. In this context, ‘this’ and ‘these’ indicate nearness to the speaker while ‘that’ and ‘those ’indicate the distance from the speaker. Demonstrative Pronouns are similar to ‘Demonstrative Determiners/Adjectives’ except that they stand alone as nouns rather than preceding nouns. Look at these examples:

Demonstrative Pronouns

  • I would like to give you
  • What is that?
  • These are interesting books.
  • Those are not her clothes.

Demonstrative Adjectives/Determiners

  • Will you take this book home?
  • These flowers are for you.
  • Get that man out of here!
  • Aren’t those cars over there expensive?

Interrogative Pronouns

These pronoun types are used to ask questions. They include: who, whose, what, which and whom. Consider these examples:

  • Who asked you to go there?
  • What did you do to her?
  • Whose are those books?
  • Which is yours?
  • To whom did you address the letter?

‘Whom’ functions as a prepositional complement or complement of the preposition.

Interrogative Pronouns can also function as adjectives, e. g.

  • Whose car is that?
  • Which book is yours?
  • What story are you reading?

Relative Pronouns

These are pronouns that introduce relative or adjectival clauses in a sentence. A relative clause is a subordinate clause that has the function of an adjective. It qualifies or gives more information about a specific noun in a sentence. A Relative Pronoun, therefore, acts as the subject in the subordinate clause. The Relative Pronouns are: who, whom, whose, that and which. See these examples:

  • That is the man who stole your purse.
  • She is the lady whom you asked to see.
  • The boy whose bicycle missed has got a new one.
  • This is the car that I would like to buy.
  • The board approved the bid which he had submitted.

Relative Pronouns refer back to a noun, or noun phrase in the main clause. We refer to these nouns and noun phrases as antecedents. ‘man’, ‘lady’, ‘boy’, ‘car’, and ‘bid’ are antecedents in the examples above.

Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite Pronouns are pronouns that refer to things or persons generally and are not specific as to who or what they are exactly. Examples of Indefinite Pronouns include: any, anybody, anyone, anything, anywhere, some, somebody, someone, something, somewhere, none, nobody, no one, nothing, nowhere, few, little, many, several, each, etc.

  • Anyone can enter.
  • Nobody was there.
  • No one knows tomorrow.
  • Someone cares.
  • Everyone should be present.
  • Something is about to happen.

In English, Indefinite Pronouns usually go along with the singular form of the verb in sentences in which they occur. See the post on Concord for more. Thank you for reading through this post. Kindly connect with us on our Social Media Platforms and remember to share this post with your friends.

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