Definition of Pronoun


In English, a pronoun is a word that replaces a noun or a pronoun, such as I, he, who or what. Pronouns are necessary as without them the English language—and indeed most languages—would sound dreadful. Example:

David ate David’s spaghetti, grabbed David’s briefcase, and walked out the door.

Through the magic of pronouns, however, the above becomes:

David ate his spaghetti, grabbed his briefcase, and walked out the door.


Pronouns can also stand in place of nouns. For example:

David, are you coming to the party?

Becomes:

Are you coming to the party?

According to The Chicago Manual of Style, a pronoun usually requires an antecedent—in other words, a previous noun or pronoun or clause or phrase in the same sentence.

This antecedent can be hinted at or made obvious, but it must be there.

However, not all pronouns require antecedents. Who, which, what, I and you typically don’t have an antecedent.

Pronouns possess four attributes: number, person, gender, and case.

You can tell the number of a pronoun by the antecedent noun or nouns (e.g. pen, pens); the person, gender and case can be determined through form (I, you, he, she, they, etc).

There are six kinds of pronouns in English: personal, demonstrative, interrogative, relative, indefinite and adjective.

Note that some pronouns can have more than one category; it depends on how they are used.

Personal pronouns are I, you, he, she, it, we, and they.

The image below shows the person and case of personal pronouns:

Personal Pronouns

 

Demonstrative pronouns are this and that, as seen on the table below:

Near

Far

Singular

This

That

Plural

These

Those

 

Interrogative pronouns are which, who and what. This table shows you they work:

Subject

Object

Person

Who

Whom

Thing

What

Person/Thing

Which

Person

Whose (Possessive)

 

Relative pronouns are which, who, what and thatWho has three variations: who is nominativewhom is objectivewhose is possessive.

Relative Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns are, for example, each, another or none. There’s quite a few of them. Check it out:

Singular

Plural

Singular/Plural

Another

Anybody

Anyone

Anything

Each

Either

Everybody

Everyone

Everything

Little

Much

Neither

Nobody

No one

Nothing

One

Other

Somebody

Someone

Something

Both

Few

Many

Others

Several

All

Any

More

Most

None

Some

Such

 

Finally, adjective pronouns (also known as pronominal adjectives) are, for example, this, that, each, or which.

References:

Gelderen, Elly van. 2000. A History Of English Reflexive Pronouns. Amsterdam [etc.]: Benjamins.

Meyer, Paul Georg. 2005. Synchronic English Linguistics. Tübingen: Narr.

The Chicago Manual of Style. 16th ed. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

Wales, Katie. 1996. Personal Pronouns In Present-Day English. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press.