What is a Pronoun?

A Pronoun is a word that may be used in place of a nounOpens in new window, noun phraseOpens in new window, or (occasionally) a whole clauseOpens in new window, to refer to antecedentsOpens in new window or words that have appeared earlier in a sentence or paragraph.

Pronouns which include small words, such as, I, me, he, she, we, they, etc., are inestimable as an instrument of avoiding serial repetition of nouns already mentioned. As substitutes for nouns; pronouns function exactly as nouns do, functioning as subjectOpens in new window, objectOpens in new window, and complement to the verb as required.

In grammar, pronouns usually stand for the person or thing that we speak or write about; they usually don’t start a discourse, nouns are used first and then pronouns subsequently to prevent boring repetitions of the same noun.

Types of Pronouns

There are a variety of pronouns in English grammar, the common ones include:

  1. Personal PronounsOpens in new window Personal pronoun refers to specific people or objects: I, you, he, it, we, they, etc.
  2. Demonstrative PronounsOpens in new window Demonstrative pronoun points to a specific person, object, or thing: this, that, these, those.
  3. Possessive PronounsOpens in new window Possessive pronoun indicate ownership or possession: mine, his, hers, yours, etc.
  4. Interrogative PronounsOpens in new window — Interrogative pronouns are used to introduce questions: who, whom, whose, what, which.
  5. Reciprocal PronounsOpens in new window Reciprocal pronouns serve as objects of verbs when the subjects are plural: each other, one another.
  6. Reflexive PronounsOpens in new window Reflexive pronouns are used to indicate that the subject and object of the verb are one and the same: myself, yourself, herself, etc.
  7. Indefinite PronounsOpens in new window Indefinite pronouns are used to refer to people or objects that are not specific: anyone, everyone, each, every, some, all, few, much, etc.
  8. Relative PronounsOpens in new window Relative pronouns relate groups of words to nouns or other pronouns: who, whom, whose, which, that, whoever, etc.
  9. Expletive Pronoun — The words it and there followed by the subject of the sentence are expletive pronouns.
Examples of Expletive Pronoun:
  • There were only a few tickets left.
  • It was a long list of chores.
When using an expletive, the verb agrees with the subject, as:
  • There remains one child on the bus.
  • There remain many children on the bus.

Introducing the Antecedent

The noun or words for which a pronoun stands or refers back to is what is called the AntecedentOpens in new window.

Observe the following examples:

  • Andrew washed his shoes.
    (In this sentence, his refers to Andrew. Andrew is the antecedent for the pronoun his.)
  • Gretchen and her parent were working out in their gym. (This sentence contains two pronouns and two antecedents. The pronoun her refers to Gretchen, so Gretchen is the antecedent of her; their refers to Gretchen and her parent. Gretchen and her parent is the antecedent of the pronoun their.)
  • Being a woman in a male-dominated profession has its advantages and disadvantages.
    (Here, its refers to the phrase being a woman in a male-dominated profession; the entire phrase is the antecedent.)

See this page for comprehensive studies on pronouns and antecedentsOpens in new window.

Unclear or Vague Pronoun Allusion

An unclear or vague pronoun allusion makes a sentence confusing and difficult to understand.

Avoiding Vague Pronoun Allusion
Initial version
  • The teacher and the student knew that she was wrong.
Who was wrong: the teacher or the student? The meaning is unclear. Rewrite the sentence to avoid confusion.
Rephrased version
  • The teacher and the student knew that the student was wrong.