Pronouns

Pronouns are one of the eight word classes in the National Curriculum. Some linguists would treat pronouns as a subclass of nouns, and there are some good reasons for that, but we adhere to the National Currciulum specifications.

Pronouns can sometimes replace a noun in a sentence:

Noun Pronoun
  • John got a new job.
  • Children should watch less television.
  • He got a new job.
  • They should watch less television.

In these examples the pronouns have the same reference as the nouns which they replace. In each case, they refer to people, and so we call them personal pronouns.

The group of personal pronouns also includes the pronoun it, although this pronoun does not usually refer to a person. There are three personal pronouns, and each has a singular and a plural form:

Singular
  1. I
  2. you
  3. he/she/it
Plural
  1. we
  2. you
  3. they

The first person (1.) refers to the speaker or writer with the singular pronoun I. The second person (2.) refers to the audience, you, while the third person (3.) refers to anyone else.

These pronouns also have another set of forms, which we show here:

Singular
  1. me
  2. you
  3. him/her/it
Plural
  1. us
  2. you
  3. them

The first set of forms (I, you, he...) are in the nominative case (also called subjective case), and the second set (me, you, him...) the accusative case (also called objective case).

This distinction affects how they can be used in sentences in Standard English. For instance, in our previous example, we say that he can replace John.

  • John got a new job.
  • He got a new job.

But he cannot replace John in I gave John a new job (at least in Standard English). Here, we have to use the accusative form him: I gave him a new job.

In some colloquial and regional varieties of English, me is used as a Subject, an interesting linguistic topic in itself.

There are two additional forms of personal pronouns:

  • Possessive: mine, yours, his, hers, ours, theirs (For items such as my, your, her, etc. see: http://www.englicious.org/lesson/determiners)
    • The white car is mine.
  • Reflexive: myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, oneself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves
    • He injured himself playing football.

Demonstrative pronouns are used for ‘pointing to’ objects in the immediate vicinity, or referring back to something already established. They are:

  • this
  • that
  • these
  • those

For example:

  • This is a new car.
  • Those are beautiful shoes.
  • That is one hell of a bad haircut.

Click on 'Advanced' to learn more about pronouns.

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