Types of Pronoun

by Craig Shrives

Types of Pronoun

The term "pronoun" covers many words, some of which do not fall easily under the standard definition for a pronoun, "a word that replaces a noun or a noun phrase." Here is a summary of the nine types of pronoun:
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More about the Different Types of Pronouns

There are nine different types of pronoun. (Under each heading, there is a link to a lesson and test for that type of pronoun.)

Demonstrative Pronouns

The demonstrative pronouns are "this," "that," "these," and "those." A demonstrative pronoun represents a noun and tells us whether it is singular or plural and whether it is near or far (including in time). For example:
  • This is the one I left in the car.
  • (Here, the speaker could be holding a mobile phone. It is singular, and it is near to the speaker.)
  • Shall I take those?
  • (In this example, the speaker could be pointing to some plates. They are singular, and they are far from the speaker.)
This table summarizes how demonstrative pronouns are used:
nearfar
singularthisthat
pluralthesethose
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Read more about demonstrative pronouns.

Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns refer to people or things without being specific. This is the largest group of pronouns. It includes "all," "some," "any," "several," "anyone," nobody," "each," "both," "few," "either," "none," "one", and "no one," which are the most common ones. Here are some example sentences with indefinite pronouns:
  • Somebody must have seen the driver leave.
  • ("Somebody" is not a specific person.)
  • We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. (Playwright Oscar Wilde)
  • ("All" and "some" do not specify people.)
  • I have nothing to declare except my genius. (Playwright Oscar Wilde)
  • (The indefinite pronoun "nothing" does not specify a thing. Of note, the indefinite pronoun "something" does not specify a thing either.)
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Read more about indefinite pronouns.

Interrogative Pronouns

The interrogative pronouns are "what," "which," "who," "whom," and "whose." They are used in questions. Although they are classified as pronouns, it is not immediately obvious how they replace nouns. In fact, the answer to the question (which will be a noun) is the noun represented by an interrogative pronoun. For example:
  • Who told you to do that?
  • (The answer to this question is the noun represented by the interrogative pronoun "who.")
  • Which dog won the race?
  • (The answer to this question is the noun represented by the interrogative pronoun "which.")
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Read more about interrogative pronouns.

Personal Pronouns

The personal pronouns are "I," "you," "he," "she," "it," "we," "they," and "who." More often than not (but certainly not always), they replace nouns representing people. When most people think of pronouns, it is the personal pronouns that spring to mind. Here are some examples of personal pronouns:
  • We can't all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.
  • I bought some batteries, but they weren't included. (Comedian Steven Wright)
  • (NB: This quotation plays on the idea that batteries are never included when power-powered items are bought.)
In the two examples above, the four personal pronouns are in the subjective case because they are all the subjects of verbs. However, personal pronouns can be in other cases too. Here is a table showing the personal pronouns by case:
PersonSubjective CaseObjective CasePossessive DeterminerPossessive PronounsReflexive Pronouns
First Person Singular I me my mine myself
Second Person Singular you you your yours yourself
Third Person Singular he/she/it him/her/it his/her/its his/hers/its himself/herself/itself
First Person Plural we us our ours ourselves
Second Person Plural you you your yours yourselves
Third Person Plural they them their theirs themselves
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Read more about personal pronouns.

Possessive Pronouns

The possessive pronouns are "mine," "yours," "his," "hers," "ours," and "theirs." A possessive pronoun represents a noun and also tells us who owns it. For example:
  • The tickets are ours.
  • (Here, "ours" represents the noun phrase "the tickets" and tells readers that "we" own them.)
  • Shall we follow his instructions or theirs?
  • (In this example, "theirs" represents the noun "instructions" and tells readers that "they" own them.)
These pronouns are sometimes called absolute possessive pronouns to differentiate them from possessive determiners ("my," "your," "his," "her," "its," "our," and "their"), which are also classified as a type of possessive pronoun. Look at this example with a possessive determiner:
  • This is Sarah's English book. Have you seen her French book?
  • (The possessive determiner "her" replaces "Sarah's." This proves that the possessive determiner "her" is a type of pronoun.)
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Read more about possessive pronouns and how they are classified.

Relative Pronouns

The relative pronouns are "which," "that," and "who" (including "whom" and "whose"). A relative pronoun is used to head a relative clause (or an adjective clause), which adds more information to a sentence. In each example, the relative clause is shaded and the relative pronoun is bold.
  • Dr Adam Sissons, who lectured at Cambridge for more than 12 years, should have known the difference.
  • (Here, 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.")
  • The dog that stole my dinner is loitering outside.
  • (The relative pronoun "that" introduces the clause "that stole my dinner" and refers back to "the dog.")
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Read more about relative pronouns.
Read more about using commas with "which" and "who."

Reciprocal Pronouns

The reciprocal pronouns are "each other" and "one another." Reciprocal pronouns are used for actions or feelings that are reciprocated. For example:
  • They like one another.
  • They talk to each other like they're babies.
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Reflexive Pronouns

The reflexive pronouns are "myself," "yourself," "herself," "himself," "itself," "ourselves," "yourselves," and "themselves."

A reflexive pronoun ends "-self" or "-selves" and refers to another noun or pronoun in the sentence (usually the subject of the sentence). For example:
  • The dog bit itself.
  • (Here, the reflexive pronoun "itself" refers back to the noun "the dog.")
  • Are you talking to yourself?
  • (In this example, the reflexive pronoun "yourself" refers back to the pronoun "you.")
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Read more about reflexive pronouns.

Intensive (or Emphatic) Pronouns

The intensive pronouns are "myself," "yourself," "herself," "himself," "itself," "ourselves," "yourselves," and "themselves." (They are the same as the reflexive pronouns, but they are used differently.)

An intensive pronoun (sometimes called an "emphatic pronoun") refers back to another noun or pronoun in the sentence to emphasize it (e.g., to emphasize that it is the thing carrying out the action). For example:
  • John bakes all the bread himself.
  • (Here, the intensive pronoun "himself" refers back to the noun "John.")
  • The cat itself opened the door.
  • (In this example, the intensive pronoun "itself" refers back to the noun "the cat.")
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Read more about intensive pronouns.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

Try our drag-and-drop test on the different types of pronoun What are adjectives? What are adverbs? What are conjunctions? What are interjections? What are prepositions? What are verbs? What are nouns? The different types of nouns Demonstrative pronouns Indefinite pronouns Interrogative pronouns Personal pronouns Possessive pronouns Reciprocal pronouns Relative pronouns Reflexive pronouns