Pronouns: Definition & Types

A pronoun is a word which takes the place of a noun. Pronouns are a closed group of words, but they hold a very important part in English language. 

Table of Contents


Definition & Type:

What is a pronoun?

A pronoun is a word which we use instead of a noun. We use pronouns to avoid the boring repetation of nouns. For example, read the following two passages:

Neil A. Armstrong was an astronaut. Neil A. Armstrong lived in American. But people all over the world know Neil A. Armstrong. 

Neil A. Armstrong was an astronaut. He lived in American. But people all over the world know him. 

Here, the words “he” and "him" are used in place of the noun “Neil A. Armstrong”. "He" and "him" are propnuns. 

Antecedent: 

The noun or noun phrase which a pronoun refers to is its antecedent. Here Neil A. Armstrong is the Antecedent of the pronouns ‘he’ and 'him'. . 

A pronoun must agree with its antecedent in number, person, and gender. That is, a singular pronoun replaces a singular noun. Similarly, a plural pronoun replaces a plural noun. 

Wrong: My brother is 16. She is a cricketer. 

Right: My brother is 16. He is a cricketer. 

Wrong: The lass is doing her homework. 

Right: The lass is doing his homework. 

Pronoun Types:

Types of Pronouns

There are many types of pronouns. They are:

  1. Personal pronouns
  2. Possessive pronouns
  3. Reflexive pronouns
  4. Emphatic pronouns
  5. Demonstrative pronouns
  6. Interrogative pronouns
  7. Relative pronouns
  8. Reciprocal pronouns
  9. Distributive pronouns
  10. Indefinite pronouns 


Personal Pronouns:

1. What is a personal pronoun?

There are 12 personal pronouns: I, me, we, us you, he, him, she, her, it, they, & them. Personal pronouns are used either as subject, or as object. They are singular or plural. There are three persons: first person, second person, and third person. Possessive adjectives, possessive pronouns, and reflexive pronouns also look like personal pronouns. Read the following table to know all of them.

Person Number

NominativeObjective

Possessive

Adjective

Possessive

Pronoun

Reflexive

Pronoun

1st Person SingularImemyminemyself
1st Person Plural
weusouroursourselves
2nd Person Singular
youyouyouryoursyourself
2nd Person Plural
youyouyouryoursyourselves
3rd Person Singular
he
him
his
his
himself
3rd Person Singular
sheherherhersherself
3rd Person Singular
itititsitsitself
3rd Person Plural
theythemtheirtheirsthemselves

Examples of Personal Pronouns

First Person Singular: 

  • I am a teacher. My students love me

First Person Plural: 

  • We are students. Our teachers teach us sincerely. 

Second Person Singular/Plural: 

  • You are a nice man. Your friends like you.

Third Person Singular: 

  • He is a popular teacher. His students love him.
  • She is a mother. Her children love her.
  • A pen is a useful thing. It helps us to write. Every student needs it

Third Person Plural

  • Rupa and Gopa are sisters. They read in a college. Their teachers love them


Possessive Pronouns:

2. What is a possessive pronoun?

Possessive pronouns indicate possession. There are seven possessive pronouns in modern English. They are: mine, ours, yours, his, hers, its, & theirs. Possessive pronouns are derived from personal pronouns. They are very similar to possessive adjectives which are also derived from personal pronouns. 

USE OF POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS: 

We use a possessive pronoun instead of a full noun phrase. Possessive pronouns can be subject or object. Study the following sentences.

MINE

  • Five dogs are playing in the field. Mine is black. (Mine = my dog; subject)
  • I like your dog. Do you like mine? (mine = my dog; object)

OURS

  • Several cows are in the field.
  • Ours are not here. (Ours = our cows; subject)
  • Have you seen ours? (ours = our cows; object)

YOURS

  • I have seen many gardens, but yours is the loveliest. (yours = your garden; subject)
  • I like yours. (yours = your garden; object)

His

His can be both possessive adjective and possessive pronoun. If his precedes a noun, it is possessive adjective. If it doesn't follow a noun, it is possessive pronoun. 

  • Is this his car? (his pre-modifies the noun car. So, his is a possessive adjective/ possessive determiner.)
  • Yes, this is his. (his = his car; possessive pronoun) 

Hers

Hers is used as possessive pronoun. It replaces her + noun. 

  • Where is her bag? (possessive adjective/ possessive determiner.)
  • Hers is on the dining table. (hers = her bag; possessive pronoun) 

Theirs

Theirs is used as possessive pronoun. It replaces their + noun.

  • A: Is their horse white? 
  • B: No, theirs is red.

WHOSE  

Interrogative pronoun whose can also be used as a possessive pronoun (Interrogative possessive pronoun)

  • I found a purse on the road. Can you say whose is this? (whose = whose purse)

Singular or Plural? 

Note that possessive pronouns can be both singular and plural. If they refer to singular antecedents, they are singular. But when they refer to plural antecedents, they are plural. 

  • I have four cars and Jim has three. Mine are in the garage. (Mine = my cars; plural)
  • John has a bike. I also have a bike. Mine is the red one. (Mine = my bike; singular)

Grammar Notes

1. Possessive Pronouns do not have an apostrophe. 

  • This car is ours/yours/hers/theirs. (NOT our’s/your’s/her’s/their’s)

2. Possessive pronouns replace Possessive Adjective + Noun. So, never write nouns after it. 

  • My car is red. Yours is blue. (NOT Yours cat is blue.) 


Reflexive Pronouns:

3. What is a reflexive pronoun?

To reflex=to reflect back like a mirror

Reflexive pronoun refers back to the subject of the clause in which it is used. Reflexive pronoun and its subject are same person. The bold words in the following sentences are reflexive pronouns.

  • I saw myself in the mirror. (I and myself are same person)
  • He saw himself in the mirror. (He and himself are same person)
  • They saw themselves in the mirror. (They and themselves are same person)

Reflexive pronouns end in "-self" (singular) or "-selves" (plural). There are eight reflexive pronouns. They are:- 

Singular Reflexive Pronouns: 

myself

yourself

himself

herself

itself

Plural Reflexive Pronouns:

ourselves

yourselves

themselves

SUBJECT-REFLEXIVE PRONOUN AGREEMENT

A reflexive pronoun must agree with its subject in number, person, and gender. The following table shows which reflexive pronouns we use for which subjects. 

USE OF REFLEXIVE PRONOUNS:

Reflexive pronouns can be used as only objects. Reflexive pronoun and its subject are same person. 

  • I see myself.
  • We see ourselves.
  • You see yourself.
  • You see yourselves.
  • He sees himself.
  • She sees herself.
  • It sees itself.
  • They see themselves.
  • Willy (male) sees himself.
  • Jessica (female) sees herself.
  • Paul and Cathy see themselves. 


Emphatic Pronouns:

4. What is an emphatic or intensive pronoun?


If a reflexive pronoun emphasizes its antecedent and does not refer back to the subject, we call it Emphatic Pronoun or Intensive Pronoun. 

  • I baked the cake myself. 
  • She herself solved the problem. 


Demonstrative Pronouns:

5. What is a demonstrative  pronoun?

The pronouns which are used to point out somebody or something are demonstrative pronouns. 

There are four demonstrative pronouns: this, that, these & those.

Near & Far

This & these indicate nearness. 

  • This is my book. 
  • These are my books. 

That & those indicate remoteness. 

  • That is your book. 
  • Those are your books. 

Singular & Plural

This & that are singular.

  • This is my home. 
  • That is your home. 

These & those are plural.

  • These are our homes. 

  • Those are your homes. 


Interrogative Pronouns:

6. What is an interrogative pronoun?

Interrogative pronouns are pronouns that are used to ask questions. 

There are five interrogative pronouns: who, whom, whose, which & what. Read the examples below.

Who broke the glass? 

Whom did you see there?

Whose is the book? 

What is your name? 

Which is your brother?

Interrogative Pronouns

Person/ Thing
Subject
Object
Possessive
Person
who
whom
whose
Thing
what
what

Person/ Thing
which
which

WHO, WHOM & WHOSE

Who as Subject

Who, whom and whose stand for people. Who is used as subject. It is singular and plural. 

A: Who wants to go there?

B: John wants to go there.

[ Here who takes the place of the subject noun John. Who is singular.]

A: Who want to go? 

B: John and Marry want to go.

[Here who takes the place of the subject noun John and Marry. Who is plural.]

Whom as Object

Whom is always used as object. It is both singular and plural.

A: Whom did you see in the garden? 

B: I saw Mike

[Here whom takes the place of the object noun Mike. Whom is singular.]

A: Whom are they calling?

B: They are calling Willy and Paul

[Here whom takes the place of the object noun Willy and Paul. Whom is plural.]

Who as Object

Who can be used as object. It is both singular and plural.

A: Who did you see in the garden? 

B: I saw Mike

[Here who takes the place of the object noun Mike. Who is singular.]

A: Who are they calling?

B: They are calling Willy and Paul

[Here who takes the place of the object noun Willy and Paul. Who is plural.]

Whose as Subject

Whose is possessive. It can be both pronoun and adjective. 

A: Whose goats are there? (Whose is an interrogative possessive adjective)

B: Here is a purse on the table. Whose is this? 

[Whose ia a possessive pronoun, and it is singular]

C: Here are five purses on the table. Whose are these? 

[Whose is a possessive pronoun, and it is plural]

WHICH & WHAT

WHICH

Which can be both personal and non-personal. We use which when the choice is restricted. Which can be both pronoun and adjective.

Which is your car? [Which is an interrogative pronoun] 

Which car did you buy? [Which is an interrogative adjective]

WHAT

What is always non-personal. What can be both pronoun and adjective.

What is your name? [What is an interrogative pronoun]

What class are you in? [What is an interrogative adjective]

Assertive Verb Pattern

When who, whose, what, and which are used as subject, they follow assertive verb pattern

Who writes the letter? 

Whose horse won the race?

Which boy stood first in the exam?

What made you angry?

Interrogative Verb Pattern

When who, whom, whose, what, and which are used as object, they follow interrogative verb pattern. 

Who is he talking to?

Whom is he talking to?

Whose car do you drive? 

Which house has he chosen? 

What class are you in? 


Relative Pronouns:

7. What is a relative pronoun?

Pronouns that relate to the words they modify are relative pronouns. There are mainly six relative pronouns: who, whom, whose, which, what & that. Who, whom, and whose stand for persons. That stands for both person and thing. Which stands for things. 

Relative Pronouns

Person/ Thing
Subject
Object
Possessive
Person
who
whom
whose
Thing
which
which
of which
Person/ Thing
that
that

Relative Clause

Relative pronouns introduce relative clauses which function as adjective clauses. So, relative pronouns are also called adjective clause pronouns

People who live in glass house should not throw stones at others. 

In the above sentence, who is a relative pronoun and who live in glass house is a relative clause or adjective clause. 

Use of Relative Pronouns: 

Who as Subject

Who is a subject pronouns and it stands for persons. There is no difference between male and female. That can replace who.

- The girl who stood first is my sister.

- The girl that stood first is my sister.

- Milton, who built this house, has died. 

- Milton, that built this house, has died. 

Whom as Object of Verb

Whom is always objective. You can use who as object also.  That can replace whom. You can use no pronoun

- This is the boy whom I saw in the room.

- This is the boy who I saw in the room.

- This is the boy that I saw in the room.

- This is the boy I saw in the room.

Whom & That as Object of Preposition

Whom and that can be both object of prepositions. If you put the preposition before the relative pronoun, it must be whom. If you use the preposition at the end of the clause, you can use whom, or who, or that, or no pronoun.

- The man with whom you work is not honest. 

- The man whom you work with is not honest. 

- The man who you work with is not honest. 

- The man that you work with is not honest. 

- The man you work with is not honest. 

Possessive: Whose

Whose is the only possessive form of relative pronouns. Whose is most often used before the head noun it modifies. 

- The man whose house has broken down now lives in the street. 

- Roka whose car is red has come first. 

- The girl whose name is Linda lost her bag. 

- This is the bag whose owner is unknown. 

Which

Which is the main relative pronoun for things. But that can also refer to things. 

Which as Subject

'Which' stands for things. We can replace 'which' with 'that'. 

- A drone is a robot which can fly in the sky. 

- A drone is a robot that can fly in the sky. 

- This is the car which ran over the dog.

- This is the car that ran over the dog.

Which as Object of Verb

'Which' can be used as object. We can replace 'which' with 'that'. We can omit the pronoun also. 

- The book which I bought is lost. 

- The book that I bought is lost. 

- The book I bought is lost. 

Which as Object of Preposition

'Which' can be used as object of preposition. Prepositions came before which, although it is possible to move the preposition at the end of the clause. We can replace 'which' with 'that' when the preposition is moved to the end of the clause.

- The school in which he reads is very good. 

- The school in that he reads is very good. 

- The school which he reads in is very good. 

- The school that he reads in is very good. 


Reciprocal Pronouns:

8. What is a reciprocal pronoun?

Two pronouns express mutual actions. They are called reciprocal pronouns.

Reciprocal pronouns are each other & one another. 

Use of Reciprocal Pronouns: 

We use reciprocal pronouns to mean that each of two or more subjects is acting towards the other in the same way. 

For example, 

John helps Lucy and Lucy helps John. 

We say-

John and Lucy are helping each other. 

The action is "reciprocated". 

Shelley and Mike love each other. = Shelley loves Mike and Mike loves Shelley.

Peter and Linda saw each other. =Peter saw Linda and Linda saw Peter.

The boys were fighting one another. 

Each other or One another?

Each other is more common than one another. Moreover, many people say that we should use one another when there is more than two people or things. But there is no real justification for this. 


Distributive Pronouns:

9. What is a distributive pronoun?

Distributive pronouns are each,  either & neither. 

"A distributive pronoun considers members of a group separately, rather than collectively." Wikipedea

Example, 

Each was present there. 

Either of the boys will come. 

Neither of the girls is present. 

Distributive pronouns and distributive adjectives (or distributive determiners) look same, but there is difference in their use. 

A distributive pronoun acts are the subject or object, where as a distributive determiner or distributive adjective modifies a noun. Look at the following examples:

Each cat has a tail. (Distributive adjective)

Each has a tail. (Distributive pronoun) 

Online Quiz on Pronouns:

Online MCQ Quiz on Pronouns 



Select the correct answer

Q1. Rashed, two of----------brothers attend primary school, wishes to be a school teacher after his graduation.
them
which
whom
whose
Q2. The woman----------was old and bent.
I spoke to her
I spoke to
that I spoke
I spoke
Q3. The affection of his wife bears him up in the midst of all his problems. What does the phrase ‘bear him up’ mean----------?
To humble down
To sustain
To deceive
To play way
Q4. ----------who enjoys jazz music will enjoy this festival, tickets for which can be bought at----------good music shops.
Anybody/ every
Everybody/ all
Anyone/ several
Somebody/ both
Q5. A colleague of ---------- has lent us ---------- holiday cottage for a week.
him/her
theirs/its
your/them
mine/his
Q6. The man----------robbed the bank has been arrested.
whose sons had
who have
whom
when he
Q7. Which of the following sentence is correct?
Rohan and his father were helping his mother.
Rohan and his father was helping his mother.
Rohan and his father were helping Rohan's mother.
Rohan and his father were helping their mother.
Q8. People who suffer from asthma need to work ---------- understands the disease and can design a proper training them.
in the conjunction of a doctor who
in conjunction with a doctor that
in conjunction with a doctor who
in conjunction of a doctor that
Q9. “----------do you spell your surname?”
When
Where
Who
How
Q10. “It has made it possible for people all over the planet to reach out and touch someone”. Here the first ‘It’ stands for----------.
NASA
WWW
Microchip
Pacemaker
Q11. ---------- drawings is different.
Each of the
Very few
Every
Few
Q12. Each of the students in the class has to type ---------- own research paper this semester.
his/her
to their
of his/her
theirs
Q13. The man whom I ---------- with ---------- the Dean of our faculty.
was talking; were
I can talk; were
were talking; was
was talking; was
Q14. There were two small rooms in the beach house, ---------- served as a kitchen.
the smallest of which
the smaller of what
the smallest of that
the smaller of which
Q15. Everybody should obey ---------- respective duties in ---------- own position for the development of our company.
them; their
his; his
their; his
his; their
Q16. Identify the correct sentence from the following.
Let he and you be witnesses.
Let you and him be witnesses.
Let you and he be witnesses.
Let him and you be witnesses.
Q17. The rising numbers of icebergs are in turn ‘increasing the Tsunami hazards’ ---------- occur when they break away from a glacier and trigger a tidal wave.
whom
whose
which
who's
Q18. These handkerchiefs are----------. Don't mix them up with----------.
my; her
mine; hers
me; her's
I; she
Q19. ---------- among you are from class 10?
Who
Whose
Whom
Which
Q20. The child cried for----------mother.
none
his
her
its