Top 30 Pronouns in English

30 Most Common Pronouns in English

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The top 30 most common pronouns in English are:
  • I, you, he, she, it, we, you, they, me, you, him, her, it, us, you, them, my, your, his, her, our, your, their, mine, yours, his, ours, theirs, who, which, and that
These pronouns are listed by how frequently they are used in English. There are five types of pronoun in the list. (In English, there are 9 types of pronoun, but only 5 feature in the top-30 list. We will discuss this later.)

Why Are Some Repeated?

Notice that some of these pronouns are repeated. For example, the word "you" features four times, and "his" features twice. This repetition is deliberate. Every repeated word has a different grammatical number or function to its partners. In many other languages, these "repeats" are different words entirely.

Table of Contents

  • A Closer Look at the Top 30 Most Common Pronouns
  • Subjective Personal Pronouns
  • Objective Personal Pronouns
  • Possessive Determiners
  • Possessive Pronouns
  • Relative Pronouns
  • Test Time!

A Closer Look at the Top 30 Most Common Pronouns

This time, the pronouns have been divided into their grammatical functions and the repeats explained.
  • I, you (singular), he, she, it, we, you (plural), they
  • (This is all 8 of the subjective pronouns. Note that "you" is used twice – once for singular, once for plural.)
  • me, you (singular), him, her, it, us, you (plural), them
  • (This is all 8 of the objective pronouns. Note that "you" is used twice again.)
  • my, your (singular), his, her, our, your (plural), their
  • (This is 7 of the 8 possessive determiners, which are classified as pronouns. "Its" does not make the top-30 list. Note that "your" is used twice.)
  • mine, yours, his, ours, theirs
  • (This is 5 of the 7 possessive pronouns. "Hers" and "yours" (plural) do not make the top-30 list. Note that "its" is not used as a standalone possessive pronoun.)
  • who, which, that
  • (This is 3 of the 5 possessive pronouns. "Whom" and "whose" do not make the top-30 list.)
Remember that these pronouns are listed by how frequently they appear in speech or writing, which means this list is useful to help prioritize the order for teaching English pronouns. It is interesting to note that – despite being ordered by "frequency of use" – these 30 pronouns are still ordered neatly in their specific categories.

Teach by Category

It is recommended that pronouns be taught by category rather than frequency. For students who find grammar baffling, learning pronouns by category helps with understanding their specific functions in sentences. It also helps with remembering them. This frequency list is useful for determining the order for teaching the pronoun categories and also the weighting given to each pronoun within a category. For example, teach subjective pronouns first, giving more weighting to "I" than "they."
Let's study these categories a little more.

Subjective Personal Pronouns

The first 8 pronouns are all subjective personal pronouns.
  • I, you, he, she, it, we, you, they
For beginners, a subjective personal pronoun often starts a sentence. For example:
  • She loves the cinema.
  • They play football on Saturdays.
Subjective personal pronouns show subjects (i.e., what the sentence is about), which is why they fit well at the start of a sentence. As your students improve and their sentences get more complex, they will learn that subjective personal pronouns are used to show that the pronouns are the subjects of verbs – any verb, not necessarily the main verb in a sentence. For example:
  • John knows that she loves the cinema.
  • ("Knows" is the main verb, but "she" is the subject of "loves.")
  • The teacher told me they play football on Saturdays.
  • ("Told" is the main verb, but "they" is the subject of "play.")

Objective Personal Pronouns

The next 8 pronouns in the top-30 list are all objective personal pronouns.
  • me, you, him, her, it, us, you, them
For beginners, an objective personal pronoun usually appears directly after the verb in a sentence. For example:
  • John likes me.
  • The children ate them.
An objective personal pronoun is most often used to show who is receiving the action of the verb. If you're teaching foreign students, their native language is highly likely to have corresponding pronouns, so these words can be learned "one-for-one," i.e., without delving into the grammar. For example:
language"I" (subjective)"me" (objective)
(pronounced "ya")
(pronounced "menya")

Possessive Determiners

The next 6 "pronouns" in the top-30 list are possessive determiners (also known as possessive adjectives).
  • my, your, his, her, our, their
Possessive determiners are easily understood by learners because the concept of ownership is so natural. Grammatically, a possessive determiner always appears before the noun it describes, and this is usually easy for learners to grasp. For example:
  • These are my cakes.
  • Repeat your question.
Possessive determiners are particularly pleasant to teach in English because there is no grammatical gender or number to consider. For example:
  • my brother, my brothers, my sister, my sisters.
  • (In many other languages, there would be a different word for "my" in each of these examples.)

Are Possessive Determiners Pronouns?

Yes. A possessive determiner is classified as a pronoun because, like all pronouns, a possessive determiner always refers back to a nearby noun, called its antecedent. (Possessive determiners are said to have a "pronominal function.")

Possessive Pronouns

The next 5 pronouns are possessive pronouns.
  • mine, yours, his, hers, ours
A possessive pronoun is a word that replaces a noun and shows ownership. Like possessive determiners, their function is easily understood by learners.
  • The white dog is mine.
  • The drinks are yours.

No Apostrophes

Learners are often tempted to put apostrophes in possessive pronouns because showing possession is one of the functions of an apostrophe. However, the ruling is simple:

There are no apostrophes in any possessive pronouns.

Relative Pronouns

The next 3 are relative pronouns.
  • who, which, that
A relative pronoun is a pronoun that heads an adjective clause. The term "adjective clause" can be taught by comparing one with a normal adjective. For example:
  • I have a blue car.
  • I have a car, which is blue.
  • (In this example, "which is blue" is an adjective clause headed by the relative pronoun "which.")
Here is another example:
  • Jack knows the tall policeman.
  • Jack knows the policeman who is tall.
  • (Here, "who is tall" is an adjective clause headed by the relative pronoun "who.")
Read more about using "which," "that," and "who." Read more about using commas with "which" and "who." Read more about adjective clauses.
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.

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