A Guide to Mastering English Pronouns with Helpful Pronoun Examples

What is a pronoun? One of the most important forms of grammar in the English language is the pronoun. This is something that you will come across very frequently when studying the language and it is important that you are aware of what a pronoun is, how it is used and where it fits into a sentence.

The proper use of pronouns is vital for maintaining clarity in communication, as it helps listeners and readers easily understand the relationships between various elements in a sentence. When mastering the use of pronouns, it is important to know their specific functions, forms, and grammatical rules, enabling more effective and accurate language usage.

In this article, we are going to be taking a look at how pronouns work and what they are used for, this will be intertwined with some pronoun examples so that we can gain a better understanding of their function.

English Pronouns

What Are Pronouns?

One of the nine parts of speech in the English language is the pronoun. A pronoun is a word that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase. Pronouns help keep our writing varied. Without pronouns, we would have to constantly repeat the same noun over and over again to tell a story. For example, if we wanted to write a story about Mary we would constantly have to repeat her name.

  • Mary went to the store to buy a shirt. Mary picked up a blue shirt to go with Mary’s jacket.

You could use alternative appellations to make the text more varied. However, this could confuse the reader. The reader may think that the two names you use are different entities entirely. For this reason, we use pronouns for noun substitutions.

  • Mary went to the store to buy a shirt. She picked up a blue shirt to go with her jacket.

Using she and her makes it clear that Mary is being referenced. There is no ambiguity.

In English, there are many types of pronouns, each with its unique function and purpose. Some common pronoun categories include personal pronouns (such as he, she, and they), possessive pronouns (like his, her, and their), reflexive pronouns (e.g., himself, herself), and relative pronouns (who, which, that). These different pronoun types assist greatly in providing structure within sentences, enabling clear and concise expression of ideas.

Pronoun Cases

In the English language, pronouns are essential parts of speech that are used to replace nouns in order to avoid repetition and maintain clarity. Pronouns have different forms based on their function in a sentence, which are called cases. There are three main cases of pronouns: subject pronouns, object pronouns, and possessive pronouns.

Subject Pronouns

Subject pronouns are used as the subject of a sentence or clause, essentially replacing the noun. They tell who or what is performing the action of the verb. Examples of subject pronouns include:

  • I
  • You
  • He
  • She
  • It
  • We
  • They

Here’s a table to provide some examples of subject pronouns in use:

Noun Subject Pronoun Example Sentence
John He He is reading a book.
Mary and Susan They They go to the same school.
The cat It It likes to sleep on the couch.

Object Pronouns

Object pronouns, on the other hand, are used as objects of a verb or a preposition. These pronouns provide information about the recipient of an action or to whom the action is directed. Examples of object pronouns are:

  • Me
  • You
  • Him
  • Her
  • It
  • Us
  • Them

Here’s a table to illustrate the use of object pronouns in sentences:

Noun Object Pronoun Example Sentence
Peter Him I gave the book to him.
Lisa Her Tom asked her a question.
The children Them She baked cookies for them.

Learn more: Subject & Object Pronouns

Possessive Pronouns

Possessive pronouns indicate ownership or possession of another noun. These pronouns help to identify the relationship between the owner and the object. Examples of possessive pronouns are:

  • Mine
  • Yours
  • His
  • Hers
  • Its
  • Ours
  • Theirs

Here’s a table to demonstrate the use of possessive pronouns in sentences:

Noun Possessive Pronoun Example Sentence
Anna Hers The backpack is hers.
Bob and Carol Theirs The car in the driveway is theirs.
The dog Its The collar is its.

In summary, understanding and using the correct pronoun case, whether it be subject, object, or possessive, is essential for clear and effective communication in English. By mastering these pronoun cases, you’ll be well-equipped to convey your ideas and avoid any ambiguity or confusion.

Pronouns: Person and Number

First Person

The first person pronoun refers to the speaker or speakers themselves. In English, there are two forms: singular and plural. For the singular first person, the pronoun “I” is used as the subject, while “me” is used as the object. For the plural form, “we” is used as the subject and “us” as the object. Here are some examples:

  • Singular subject: I am going to the store.
  • Singular object: She gave the book to me.
  • Plural subject: We are planning a trip.
  • Plural object: They invited us to the party.

Second Person

Second person pronouns are used when addressing the listener or listeners directly. In English, both singular and plural second person pronouns use the same word: “you.” Therefore, one must rely on context to determine whether the pronoun refers to a single person or a group. Here are some examples:

  • Singular subject: You should call your friend.
  • Singular object: I want to give this to you.
  • Plural subject: You all need to finish your work.
  • Plural object: Our teacher praised you for the project.

Third Person

The third person pronouns refer to people or things that are not the speaker or the listener. English distinguishes between singular and plural forms and, for singular, makes a further distinction based on gender. Here are the pronouns for third person:

Subject Object
He (masculine) Him
She (feminine) Her
It (neuter) It
They (plural) Them

Some examples using third person pronouns:

  • Masculine singular subject: He is driving the car.
  • Masculine singular object: The dog followed him.
  • Feminine singular subject: She loves reading books.
  • Feminine singular object: John gave the flowers to her.
  • Neuter singular subject: It is raining outside.
  • Neuter singular object: Laura fixed the computer by replacing a part in it.
  • Plural subject: They went to the park together.
  • Plural object: The teacher handed out the assignments to them.

Pronoun and Antecedent

An antecedent, a noun or noun phrase, provides context for a pronoun. The antecedent allows readers to know what a particular pronoun is referencing. For example, it can refer to many different nouns: a garden hose, a shed, or almost any other noun you may need to mention.

You will find the antecedents in the examples below italicized. The pronouns are in bold.

  • Mary decided that she would drive down to visit her grandmother.
  • The sun smiled while it ducked under the clouds.

Sometimes a writer will not explicitly need to include an antecedent. If the context of a sentence remains clear an antecedent is not necessary. If you know who is speaking, the pronouns I, me, and you can be clearly understood.

Technically, you can place a pronoun before an antecedent. Most people choose not to do this because it can confuse the reader.

  • I love it! My beautiful yellow jacket makes me happy.

Pronoun Examples (with Different Types)

Pronoun ExamplesPin

Personal Pronoun Examples

Personal pronouns replace nouns and refer to a person or thing. They are usually separated into subject pronouns and object pronouns. Subject pronouns include I, you, he, she, it, we, you, and they, and function as the subject of a verb in a sentence:

  • He went for a walk.
  • We are at the party.

Object pronouns include me, you, him, her, it, us, and them, and function as the object of a verb or preposition in a sentence:

  • She gave it to him.
  • They talked to us.

Possessive Pronoun Examples

Possessive pronouns show ownership and include mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, and theirs. They replace a noun phrase to denote possession:

  • This book is mine.
  • The decision is theirs.

Demonstrative Pronoun Examples

Demonstrative pronouns point to specific things and include this, that, these, and those. They can replace a noun and typically refer to things close to or further from the speaker:

  • This is my dog.
  • Those are the shoes I want.

Interrogative Pronoun Examples

Interrogative pronouns are used to ask questions and include who, whom, which, and what. They typically seek information regarding a noun or noun phrase:

  • Who did the dishes?
  • Which book is your favorite?

Relative Pronoun Examples

Relative pronouns introduce relative clauses and include who, whom, whose, which, and that. They typically provide additional information about a noun or pronoun in a sentence:

  • The man who lives next door is a teacher.
  • The cake that she baked was delicious.

Reflexive Pronoun Examples

Reflexive pronouns add emphasis or show that an action is performed by the subject towards itself. They include myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves:

  • She cut herself while cooking.
  • They did the work themselves.

Indefinite Pronoun Examples

Indefinite pronouns are used to refer to nonspecific people or things, and include someone, anyone, everyone, no one, few, several, any, each, either, somebody, everybody, and nothing:

  • Someone left their umbrella.
  • Everybody needs a friend.

Reciprocal Pronoun Examples

Reciprocal pronouns express a mutual relationship between subjects and include each other and one another:

  • They helped each other with the project.
  • The students shared their ideas with one another.

Intensive Pronoun Examples

Intensive pronouns are used to emphasize the subject by restating it, and are formed by adding -self or -selves to personal pronouns:

  • I myself did the dishes.
  • They themselves decided to go for a walk.

Gender Pronouns Examples

Examples of Gender Pronouns

Gender pronouns exist in a binary system: male or female. In this system, he/him/his or she/her/hers are pronouns used to delineate gender. These pronouns occur in the 3rd person singular.

Gender pronouns refer to the gender identity of a person and are used to replace the person’s name or as a reference to the person.

  • She/her/hers/herself: “He is my brother. I saw him at the store yesterday.”
  • He/him/his/himself: “She is my sister. I saw her at the store yesterday.”

Gender-Neutral Pronoun Examples

Gender-neutral pronouns are used to refer to people in a way that does not specify their gender.

  • They/them/their: “They are going to the store.”
  • Ze/hir/hirs: “Ze is my friend. I saw hir at the store yesterday.”
  • Xe/xem/xyr: “Xe is my friend. I saw xem at the store yesterday.”

Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

Pronoun-antecedent agreement refers to the match between a pronoun and its antecedent in terms of number, person, and gender. The antecedent is the noun or noun phrase to which the pronoun refers, and it appears earlier in the text. Ensuring agreement between pronouns and antecedents is essential for clear and effective writing.

There are several rules and examples to follow when it comes to pronoun-antecedent agreement.

Singular and Plural Agreement

When an antecedent is singular, the pronoun referring to it should also be singular. Similarly, when the antecedent is plural, the pronoun should be plural.

Examples:

  • Incorrect: The cat scratched its owner, and now they have to wear a bandage.
  • Correct: The cat scratched its owner, and now he or she has to wear a bandage.
  • Incorrect: The students study for its exams in the library.
  • Correct: The students study for their exams in the library.

Pronoun Agreement with Indefinite Antecedents

Indefinite antecedents, such as “anyone,” “someone,” and “each,” are singular. When using a pronoun to refer to an indefinite antecedent, it should be in the singular form.

Examples:

  • Incorrect: If somebody wants to join the club, they must fill out an application.
  • Correct: If somebody wants to join the club, he or she must fill out an application.

Third-person Pronoun Usage

Third-person pronouns (he, she, it, and they) are commonly used to replace antecedents in sentences. These pronouns should also follow the rules of pronoun-antecedent agreement.

Examples:

  • Incorrect: The dog chased their tail.
  • Correct: The dog chased its tail.
  • Incorrect: The children played with his toys.
  • Correct: The children played with their toys.

In summary, understanding and implementing pronoun-antecedent agreement rules is essential for clear and effective communication. Proper usage of singular, plural, and third-person pronouns according to their antecedents ensures that your writing will be well-received by the reader.

Pronoun Usage

In this section, we will discuss the usage of pronouns in English, focusing on their roles as direct and indirect objects, expletives, and distributive pronouns.

Direct and Indirect Objects

Pronouns can function as both direct and indirect objects within sentences. A direct object refers to the noun or pronoun receiving the action of a verb, while an indirect object refers to the noun or pronoun indirectly affected by the action.

Sentence Example Direct Object Indirect Object
She gave him the book. the book him
They told us a story. a story us

In the examples above, the italicized pronouns (himus) are indirect objects, while the non-italicized direct objects (the book, a story) are affected by the verbs directly.

Expletives

Expletive pronouns are used to introduce a sentence or clause without referring to any specific noun. They typically function as placeholders for the real subject, which follows later in the sentence. The most common expletive pronoun is it, as seen in the examples below:

  • It is important that we understand pronouns.
  • It is raining outside.

In both cases, the pronoun it introduces the sentence, but does not refer to any specific noun.

Distributive Pronouns

Distributive pronouns, such as eacheveryeither, and neither, refer to individual elements within a group or pair, without specifying the exact element. They are commonly used to convey general statements

Examples of distributive pronouns in sentences:

  • Each student must submit their assignment by Friday.
  • Neither of the options appealed to her.

In the first example, each refers to individual students without specifying any specific student. In the second example, neither refers to individual options within a pair without naming any particular option.

By understanding the roles of pronouns as direct and indirect objects, expletives, and distributive pronouns, we can improve our English writing and communication.

Pronouns in Noun Phrases

A noun phrase consists of a noun or pronoun, which is called the head, and any dependent words before or after the head. Dependent words give specific information about the head. In the context of noun phrases, pronouns are used as substitutes for nouns or noun phrases, and their referents are named or understood in the context.

Pronouns found in noun phrases can take various forms, such as:

  • Personal pronouns (e.g., I, you, he, she, it, we, they)
  • Possessive pronouns (e.g., mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs)
  • Demonstrative pronouns (e.g., this, that, these, those)
  • Quantitative pronouns (e.g., all, some, many, few)

Here are some examples of pronoun usage in noun phrases:

  1. Personal pronouns:
    • He enjoys reading mystery novels.
    • They are going to the zoo.
  2. Possessive pronouns:
    • That book is mine.
    • Is this umbrella yours?
  3. Demonstrative pronouns:
    • This is the best pizza in town.
    • Those were the days.
  4. Quantitative pronouns:
    • All are welcome to join.
    • Some people prefer tea over coffee.

Noun phrases with pronouns might also include other modifiers, such as determiners, quantifiers, numbers, and adjectives. For instance:

  • Determiners: Our team won the match.
  • Quantifiers: Most of them have arrived.
  • Numbers: Three of us went hiking.
  • Adjectives: Your old house brings back memories.

In conclusion, pronouns play a significant role in noun phrases by substituting for nouns or noun phrases, making the language more concise and preventing repetition. By understanding how different types of pronouns function within noun phrases, readers and writers can improve their communication and comprehension skills.

Pronouns in Parts of Speech

Pronouns are an important part of speech in English, as they help create variety and conciseness in both writing and speech. As a subcategory of nouns, pronouns are essential for replacing or standing in for other nouns to prevent repetition and maintain coherence in sentences.

There are several types of pronouns, each serving a specific function:

  • Personal pronouns (I, you, he, she, it, we, they) are used to represent people or things. They can be subjective (performing the action) or objective (receiving the action).
  • Demonstrative pronouns (this, that, these, those) identify and specify particular persons or things.
  • Interrogative pronouns (who, whom, which, what) introduce questions.
  • Relative pronouns (who, whom, whose, which, that) introduce relative clauses, linking them to the main clause.
  • Indefinite pronouns (all, another, any, anybody, anyone, anything, both, each, either, everybody, everyone, everything, few, many, neither, nobody, none, no one, nothing, one, other, several, some, somebody, someone) refer to nonspecific persons or things.
  • Reflexive pronouns (myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves) indicate that a person or thing is performing an action on or toward itself.
  • Intensive pronouns have the same form as reflexive pronouns but are used for emphasis.

Understanding the various types of pronouns and their functions in sentences is vital for mastering the English language. Proper use of pronouns ensures clarity, variety, and effective communication.

Table of Pronouns

Pronouns are essential in the English language as they replace specific nouns to avoid repetition and improve sentence flow. This section provides a summary of different types of pronouns with examples to enhance understanding.

Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns replace a specific noun, such as a person, place, or thing. They are divided into subject pronouns and object pronouns:

Subject Pronouns Object Pronouns
I Me
You You
He Him
She Her
It It
We Us
They Them

Subject Pronouns are used as the subject of a sentence, for example:

  • He went to the store.
  • They are playing soccer.

Object Pronouns act as the object of a sentence, for example:

  • She called me.
  • Give it to her.

Possessive Pronouns and Adjectives

Possessive pronouns and adjectives indicate ownership or a relationship to another noun.

Possessive Adjectives Possessive Pronouns
My Mine
Your Yours
His His
Her Hers
Its
Our Ours
Their Theirs

Possessive Adjectives precede a noun, for example:

  • This is my car.
  • Their house is beautiful.

Possessive Pronouns replace a noun, for example:

  • The book is yours.
  • The responsibility is theirs.

Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are used when the subject and object in a sentence refer to the same person or thing:

Reflexive Pronouns
Myself
Yourself
Himself
Herself
Itself
Ourselves
Yourselves
Themselves

Examples of reflexive pronouns in sentences:

  • She hurt herself.
  • They introduced themselves.

Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns do not refer to a specific noun. They are often used to express general ideas or quantities:

  • One
  • Other
  • None
  • Some
  • Anybody
  • Everybody
  • No one

For example:

  • Everybody was late to work because of the traffic jam.
  • It matters more to some than others.

This table of pronouns offers a quick reference to the various types of pronouns in English. Understanding their function and usage is key to mastering the language.

Pronouns List

Below find a list of common pronouns and the main categories in which they belong.

  • Reflexive: myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, themselves, yourselves, and ourselves
  • Personal: subjective (he/ she, I, you and they); objective (me, you, her/ him, it, them, and us)
  • Possessive: hers/his, mine, yours, its, ours, and theirs
  • Relative: whom, that, who, and which
  • Indefinite: all, any, anybody, everybody, everyone, another
  • Demonstrative: this, that, these, and those
  • Interrogative: who, what which, and what
  • Intensive: myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, themselves, yourselves, and ourselves

More Pronoun Rules

As with all types of grammar, there are rules surrounding the use of the pronoun. Let’s take a look at these now.

1) If the pronoun is being used as a subject it is known as a subject pronoun and often appears at the beginning of a sentence, although this is not always the case. An example of this would be She went to the shop.

The words he, I, she, we, whoever, they, it etc are all subject pronouns,

2) Secondly, a subject pronoun can be used if they are renaming the sentence subject, in this case, they always come after to be verbs, these might be verbs such as were, am, are, is, etc. An example of this would be That is she or This is him talking.

3) Another rule is that if the word who is being used as a pronoun to refer to a person, it will take the form of the verb to which that person corresponds, this might sound strange as this rule is not always followed but an example might look like this It is I who am going to town.

4) An object pronouns is used to refer to the object of a sentence. Object pronouns might include the words him, me, her, us, them, etc. An example of this might be Sarah watched her. In this example. her is the object of the verb watched.

5) When a possessive pronoun is used, the use of an apostrophe is never required.

6) When using the pronouns which, that, and who you should use either a singular or plural verb depending on what the pronoun is referring to. For example, look at the following sentence.

  • John is one of those men who likes fishing.
  • John and Bob are two of these men who like fishing.

You can see that the verb like has been modified to become plural when the pronoun who refers to two people as opposed to one.

Common Mistakes with Pronouns

Choosing a Singular Pronoun for a Plural Noun

The problem many people have with pronouns is choosing the right form to replace the noun. Sometimes people will replace a singular noun with a plural pronoun or a plural noun with a singular pronoun.

  • Incorrect: The guest needs their own towel.
  • Correct: The guest needs his/her own towel.

Object and Subject Pronoun Misuse

Problems arise when people have to choose between the subject and object cases. You need to know which case to use when replacing a noun. Otherwise, your sentence will not be grammatically correct.

Subject pronouns represent a noun performing an action. In contrast, an object receives the action performed by the subject.

  • Incorrect: Between you and I, miracles happen.
  • Correct: Between you and me, miracles happen.

You would use the object case because it is part of a prepositional phrase.

Incorrect Reflexive Pronoun Use

People often use reflexive pronouns wrong when they try to write formally. You use reflective pronouns when the subject is also the object of a sentence. For example, you would not write Mary hurt Mary. Instead, you would write Mary hurt herself. You would use the reflexive pronoun herself instead of Mary.

You can also use reflective pronouns for emphasis; however, it not commonly used. For example, I myself went to the store. This example highlights the fact the person when to the store alone.

Who vs. Whom (Subject and Object Pronouns)

Who and whom are two relative pronouns. These relative pronouns cause the most confusion among English language writers. It is simple to understand which one to use in a sentence. You just need to remember who is a subject pronoun and whom is an object pronoun.

Who functions like other subject pronouns: I, we, she/he, and they. In contrast, whom works like other object pronouns: him, us, me, her, and them. Generally, people do not get bewildered by the object use of pronouns. Object pronouns come after a modifying verb or preposition. For this reason, they are easier to identify. For example:

  • Please give the girl to me.
  • The woman bought them a cat.

The examples above show how the prepositions/verbs (bolded) precedes the object pronouns (italicized). The personal pronoun whom deviates from this sequence. In this case, the object pronoun whom comes before the verb or preposition that seeks to modify it. For example:

  • Whom should I direct my anger towards?
  • The man was as bitter as the twins, whom he described as sore losers.

You can use an alternative personal pronoun in place of who or whom to decipher the correct word to use. If the sentence works with an object pronoun you use whom. If it works with a subject pronoun then who is the word needed. In the first example, you can substitute her. The subject pronoun she would make no sense.

  • Correct: Should I direct my anger towards her?
  • Incorrect: Should I direct my anger towards she.

Conclusion

Pronouns are words which are used as a replacement for a noun and are commonly seen throughout the English language. There are various types of pronouns and certain rules that must be followed in order to create a grammatically correct sentence.

Pronoun Quiz Exercises

Here are some pronoun exercises for you to practice:

Pronoun Quiz #1

Select the correct pronoun in each question.

  1. Piper asked ____ friend to pass the salt. her or she
  2. My aunt needs ____ tires changed. her or she
  3. My cousin and ____ went to the zoo. I or me
  4. Did the dogs find ____? we or us
  5. The girls had ____ tonsils removed. her or their
  6. Where did ____ go? you or us
  7. When will ______ visit the cabin? they or them
  8. After school, ______ went the doctor. her or she

Pronoun Quiz # 2

Circle the pronouns in the sentences below.

  1. Mary went to the store and she bought a duck.
  2. My niece brought her blanket to the living room.
  3. They went to the cabin to help us.
  4. The boys selected their respective guitars.
  5. They visited his father’s old stomping grounds.

FAQs on Pronouns

What is a pronoun?

A pronoun is a word that replaces a noun in a sentence, making it easier and more efficient to communicate. Pronouns can refer to people, things, concepts, and places, allowing for more diverse and seamless communication. Examples of pronouns include “I,” “you,” “he,” “she,” “it,” “they,” and “who.”

What are the different types of pronouns?

There are several types of pronouns:

  • Personal pronouns (I, you, he, she, it, we, they)
  • Demonstrative pronouns (this, that, these, those)
  • Interrogative pronouns (who, whom, whose, which, what)
  • Indefinite pronouns (anyone, everybody, someone, few, many, none)
  • Possessive pronouns (mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs)
  • Reflexive pronouns (myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, themselves)
  • Reciprocal pronouns (each other, one another)

How do pronouns work in a sentence?

Pronouns take the place of a noun in a sentence, providing a more versatile and efficient way of conveying meaning. For example, instead of saying “Mary saw the dog and then Mary decided to pet the dog,” one can use pronouns to say, “Mary saw the dog and then she decided to pet it.” In this example, the pronouns “she” and “it” replace “Mary” and “the dog,” respectively, making the sentence more engaging and easier to read.

Why is it important to use the correct pronoun?

Using the correct pronoun not only improves clarity and understanding but also shows respect for an individual’s gender identity. When talking about someone, it is important to use the pronoun that aligns with their gender identity. For example, if an individual identifies as non-binary, one should use “they” or “them” as pronouns to refer to that person.

How can I test my pronoun knowledge?

To test one’s pronoun knowledge, they can take quizzes and practice questions that require identifying the appropriate pronoun to use in various contexts. These exercises will help improve a person’s understanding of pronoun usage and enhance their overall language skills.

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Last Updated on December 22, 2023

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