The term 'pronoun' covers many words, some of which do not fall easily under the description given in
the section What are
Pronouns? There are many different kinds of pronouns. In general, these do not cause difficulties for native English speakers. The list below is mainly for reference purposes.
These pronouns are used to demonstrate (or indicate). This, that, these
and those are all demonstrative pronouns.
This is the one I left in the car.
(In this example, the speaker could be indicating to a mobile phone, in which
case, the pronoun "this" replaces the words "mobile phone".)
Shall I take those?
Unlike demonstrative pronouns, which point out specific items, indefinite pronouns are used for non-specific things. This is the largest group of pronouns.
All, some, any, several, anyone, nobody,
each, both, few, either, none, one and
no one are the most common.
Somebody must have seen the driver leave.
(somebody - not a specific person)
We are all in the gutter, but
some of us are looking at the stars. (Oscar Wilde)
I have nothing to declare except my genius. (Oscar Wilde)
These pronouns are used in questions. Although they are classified as pronouns, it is not easy to see how they replace nouns.
Who, which, what, where and how are all interrogative pronouns.
Who told you to do that?
Possessive pronouns are used to show possession. As they are used as adjectives, they are also known as
possessive adjectives. My, your, his, her, its,
our and their are all possessive pronouns.
Have you seen her book?
(In this example, the pronoun "her" replaces a word like "Sarah's".)
Relative pronouns are used to add more information to a sentence. Which, that,
who (including whom and whose) and where are all relative pronouns.
Dr Adam Sissons,
who lectured at Cambridge for more than 12 years, should
have known the difference.
(In this example, the relative pronoun "who" introduces the clause "who studied
at Cambridge for 12 years" and refers back to "Dr Adams Sissons".)
The man who first saw the comet reported it as a UFO.
(In this example, the relative pronoun "who" introduces the clause "who first
saw the comet" and refers back to "the man".)
Absolute Possessive Pronouns
These pronouns also show possession. Unlike possessive pronouns (see above), which are adjectives to nouns, these pronouns sit by themselves.
Mine, yours, his, hers, ours and theirs are all absolute possessive pronouns.
The tickets are as good as
Shall we take yours or
Reciprocal pronouns are used for actions or feelings that are reciprocated. The two most common reciprocal pronouns are
each other and one another.
They like one another.
They talk to each other like they're babies.
A reflexive pronoun ends ...self or ...selves and refers to another noun or pronoun in the sentence. The reflexive pronouns are:
myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself, ourselves,
yourselves and themselves.
John bakes all the bread
(In this example, the reflexive pronoun "himself" refers back to the noun "John".)
Below are some common errors related to pronouns:
NO ONE NOT NO-ONE
There is no hyphen in the word "no one".
No one is qualified to take the
No-one lifted a finger.
should be 'No one ever died..."
See the lesson No One & Noone.
NONE. SINGULAR OR PLURAL?
There is a growing misconception that none is always singular. It’s not. It can be singular or plural. However, this “rule” is so well promulgated, many of your grammar-savvy readers will expect it to be singular. If your none translates as not one, treat it as singular. If it better translates as not any, treat it as plural. Your best bet is to play it by ear. Or, try your hardest to treat none as singular, but, if you can’t bear how it sounds, go plural.
ITS NOT IT'S
The word its (note, no apostrophe) is a possessive pronoun, just like his,
her and my.
Can you see its pale-coloured belly?
Jenkins failed the final test and its re-sit.
It's (with an apostrophe) is short for it is or it has. If you cannot substitute
it's with it is or it has, then it is wrong! This is covered more in the lesson
Its and It's.
There are no apostrophes in absolute possessive pronouns (also called 'absolute
Shall I take yours?
Paul's scores were better than
COMMAS OR NOT? |
The first example in Relative Pronouns (left) has commas around the clause "who studied at Cambridge for 12 years"; whereas, the second example does not have commas around "who first saw the comet". These clauses are called
The first example refers to "Dr Adam Sissons" and the second example refers back to "the man". These are called the
'antecedents' of the relative clauses.
When a relative clause (like "who saw the comet") is required to identify the antecedent (in this case "the man"), then no commas are used. When it is just additional information (like "who studied at Cambridge for 12 years"), then commas are required.
This is covered more in the lesson Which,
That and Who - Commas or Not?.