Pronouns can take the place of nouns in English sentences. Like nouns, they tell us who or what we are talking about.
English pronouns may be subjects or objects within a sentence, but unlike nouns, the form of personal pronouns changes depending on their position. (Personal pronouns are the most common. They're essential for speaking English. For other types of pronouns, see the section below this.)
The person speaking calls himself (or herself) ‘I.’
If he is the object of an action he says ‘me.’
Examples: I like ice cream. Mary sees me.
‘You’ is the person (or people) the speaker is talking to.
(‘You’ is used for one or more persons-- singular or plural-- with no change. Sometimes it isn’t clear who is included.This is why we sometimes use ‘all of you’, ‘you guys’, or in the southern U.S. ‘y’all.’) The form does not change whether it is subject or object:
Examples: You like ice cream. Mary sees you.
3rd person singular pronouns (when the speaker is talking about someone or something else) are ‘he’ (for men), ‘she’ for women, and ‘it’ for things.
Object forms are ‘him,’ ‘her,’ and ‘it.’
Examples: He likes ice cream. Mary sees him.
She likes ice cream. Mary sees her. It (a dog, for example) likes ice cream. Mary sees it.
When a speaker wants to indicate his whole group is involved in causing or receiving the action, he uses ‘we’ (as subject) or ‘us’ (as object).Examples: We like ice cream. Mary sees us.
The 3rd person plural forms are ‘they’ (masculine, feminine, or neutral) for subjects and ‘them’ for objects.Examples: They like ice cream. Mary sees them.
The most common pronouns of all are the personal pronouns above. English has several more types of pronouns:
The personal and possessive pronouns, as well as possessive adjectives, are different for each person (I, you, he, etc.) They're shown in a table below those 2 sections. Reflexive pronouns also change, as explained in that section. (They don't fit into the table.)
Possessive pronouns (and possessive adjectives, which are followed by a noun) indicate ownership or relationship. Possessive adjectives are used before nouns.
Possessive pronouns are used without a noun.
|Subject Pronouns||Object Pronouns||Possessive Adjectives||Possessive Pronouns|
Here are the comparable forms for subject pronouns (SP), Object pronouns (OP), possessive adjectives (PsA), and possessive pronouns (PsP):
The reflexive pronouns also change form, as explained below. So does who/whom. (Who is used as a subject; whom as an object.) The other types of pronouns do not indicate 'person' ( I, you, she, them), and they don't change depending on their place in a sentence.
Reflexive pronouns are not used often in English. However, they’re useful if we need to emphasize the person involved.
They’re formed by adding -self or -selves to the possessive adjectives above—except 3rd person masculine & neutral. For those we use ‘him,’ ‘it,’ & ‘them.’
So the reflexive pronouns are: myself, yourself (or ‘yourselves’ when speaking to a group), himself, herself, itself, ourselves, and themselves.
Demonstrative pronouns or adjectives (this, that, these, those) indicate which thing is being discussed. This (singular) and these (plural) talk about things that are closer than that (singular) or those (plural).
Indefinite pronouns do not refer to a specific person or thing. They may refer to anyone or anything, everything, or nothing. They include: any, anybody, anyone, anything, each, either, both, some, somebody, someone, something, few, several, many, all, everybody, everyone, everything, nobody, none, and nothing.
Relative pronouns like 'who' and 'which' start relative clauses. (The beginning of Complex Sentences explains the value of relative clauses. They save time while providing important information about the subject of a sentence. The Noun & Adjective Clauses section of that page explains relative clauses and gives some examples.)
Here are more examples:
Who, which, and what can also act as interrogative pronouns:
How to use parts of speech in English: verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, & more.
What you need to know about English Nouns.
Learn the basic forms of English verbs to increase your confidence in English.
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