Pronouns: Eight Types

Introduction

The English language contains eight types of pronouns:

Types of Pronouns
Personal Demonstrative
Impersonal Indefinite
Interrogative Reflexive
Relative Reciprocal

Let’s get better acquainted with each one!

Personal Pronouns

The following chart shows every personal pronoun:

Subject Pronouns Object Pronouns Possessive Pronouns Possessive Adjectives
I me mine my
you you yours your
he/she/it him/her/it his/hers his/her/its
we us ours our
you you yours your
they them theirs their

Organizing these pronouns is easier with the help of some key words.

Person

First person refers to the person who is speaking (the I or we).

If you’re talking to someone else, then that would be the second person in the conversation, and you would use pronouns like you and yours.

If the two of you are talking about other people or things, then they would be in the third person (it, they, them, etc.).

Number

If there is just one person or thing, then you’re dealing with a singular pronoun. A plural pronoun refers to two or more persons or things.

Gender

Third person pronouns are categorized by gender. They are masculine (he, him, etc.), feminine (she, her, etc.), or neuter (it). The other pronouns can apply to any gender.

Case

When a pronoun is the subject (and doing the action of the verb) it is in the subjective case:

He studied kinesiology.

On the other hand, if the pronoun receives the action of the verb then it will take the objective case:

The mountain conquered me.

Possessive pronouns can act like subjects or objects:

Yours is more colorful.

You can have mine.

Finally, possessive adjectives do not function like subjects or objects. Like other adjectives they accompany a noun that they modify:

I love your hair.

Impersonal Pronouns

Impersonal pronouns can replace personal pronouns. They are more abstract and generally mean “a person.” There are just two impersonal pronouns:

Impersonal Pronouns
One It

Try to use one sparingly in formal writing, as it can sound a bit stiff. Similarly, it is a rather vague pronoun, and often you can be more specific:

Vague: In The Divine Comedy, Dante often tries to outdo his teacher Virgil. One might argue that it reveals an “anxiety of influence.”

Better: In The Divine Comedy, Dante often tries to outdo his teacher Virgil. Harold Bloom argues that such poetic competition reveals an “anxiety of influence.”

Finally, note that one can also be classified as an indefinite pronoun and that it is included in the personal pronouns.

Interrogative Pronouns

There are five interrogative pronouns, and they are used for asking questions:

Interrogative Pronouns
Who What
Whom Which
Whose

There are three things you need to know about interrogative pronouns.

1. Interrogative pronouns often lack an antecedent because the noun they refer to is found in the answer to the question:

Who shot John F. Kennedy? Lee Harvey Oswald.

2. The pronoun whom is reserved for the object of a preposition or verb:

To whom did you sell your old truck?

Whom will Sally marry?

Few people actually use whom in everyday conversation, and in less formal writing who is sometimes acceptable.

3. You can add emphasis to your interrogative pronoun by adding –ever at the end (e.g., whoever).

Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns relate extra information, usually in the form of a relative clause. Here are all five relative pronouns.

Relative Pronouns
Who That
Whom Which
Whose

Note that with the exception of that, these are the same as the interrogative pronouns. It’s just their function that’s different.

We tend to use who for people, which for things, and that for people or things, though there are exceptions. Here are few examples of relative pronouns in a sentence:

The Tragically Hip, who went on their last tour in 2016, have long been an iconic Canadian band.

I ran into Jenny, whom you dated in high school.

Jupiter, which is the largest planet in our solar system, is still tiny compared to the sun.

I love those socks that you wore yesterday.

As mentioned earlier (in the section on interrogative pronouns), whom has fallen into disuse. It is properly used as the object of a verb or preposition, but in casual speech is typically replaced by who. For more information, see our second lesson on pronouns.

Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns are used for pointing at something, as you might in a demonstration:

Allow me to demonstrate how to drive this Porsche.

There are just four demonstrative pronouns:

Singular Plural
This These
That Those

And this is what those pronouns look like in a sentence:

These cupcakes are wonderful.

This essay is plagiarized.

Those onions make me cry

That is a great idea.

In the first three examples, the pronoun acts like an adjective (it modifies a noun). In the last it acts like a noun.

Notice that this and these refer to things close by, whereas that and those are reserved for more distant objects.

Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns are a large group of pronouns that at first seem somewhat unrelated. Their shared characteristic is that they tend to be somewhat vague in their reference. For instance, how do you define and limit “somebody” or “most”?  As their name suggests, indefinite pronouns are less definite than the other pronouns.

That’s why indefinite pronouns don’t always refer to specific persons or things.  In fact, they may even be lacking a clear antecedent:

Nobody knows but me.

Everything is hunky-dory.

Other indefinite pronouns are more specific, and what they refer to can be deciphered from context.

You ate all of the candies!

Few people can juggle hand grenades.

Here is a list of indefinite pronouns:

Singular Plural Sg. or Pl.
another both all
anybody few any
anyone many more
anything others most
each several none
either some
enough such
everyody
everyone
everything
little
much
neither
nobody
no one
nothing
other
somebody
someone
something

Note how many end in –body, -one, or –thing.

Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are easy to spot. They always end in –self or –selves:

Singular Plural
myself ourselves
yourself yourselves
himself themselves
herself
itself
oneself

These pronouns are often used as a direct object:

Sarah saw herself in the mirror.

At other times, they add emphasis to a subject or object. In this role they are sometimes called intensive or emphatic pronouns:

The professor himself committed a solecism.

Reciprocal Pronouns

Reciprocal pronouns are two pronouns that work together and form a pair. There are just two pairs to learn:

Reciprocal Pronouns
each other one another

They often help when the subject of a sentence is in the plural:

Good friends take care of each other.

In this example, the action is reciprocated, or returned in kind.

Exercises


 

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