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Pronouns are a major subclass of nouns. We call them a subclass of nouns because they can sometimes replace a noun in a sentence:

Noun Pronoun
John got a new job ~He got a new job
Children should watch less television ~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. However, we also include in this group 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:

Person Singular Plural
1st I we
2nd you you
3rd he/she/it they

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

Person Singular Plural
1st me us
2nd you you
3rd him/her/it them

The first set of forms (I, you, he…) exemplifies the SUBJECTIVE CASE, and the second set (me, you, him…) exemplifies the OBJECTIVE CASE. The distinction between the two cases relates to how they can be used in sentences. For instance, in our first example above, 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. Here, we have to use the objective form him: I gave him a new job.

Other Types of Pronoun

As well as personal pronouns, there are many other types, which we summarize here.

Pronoun Type

Members of the Subclass


Possessive mine, yours, his, hers, ours, theirs The white car is mine
Reflexive myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, oneself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves He injured himself playing football
Reciprocal each other, one another They really hate each other
Relative that, which, who, whose, whom, where, when The book that you gave me was really boring
Demonstrative this, that, these, those This is a new car
Interrogative who, what, why, where, when, whatever What did he say to you?
Indefinite anything, anybody, anyone, something, somebody, someone, nothing, nobody, none, no one There’s something in my shoe

Case and number distinctions do not apply to all pronoun types. In fact, they apply only to personal pronouns, possessive pronouns, and reflexive pronouns. It is only in these types, too, that gender differences are shown (personal he/she, possessive his/hers, reflexive himself/herself). All other types are unvarying in their form.

Many of the pronouns listed above also belong to another word class – the class of determiners. They are pronouns when they occur independently, that is, without a noun following them, as in This is a new car. But when a noun follows them – This car is new – they are determiners. We will look at determiners in the next section.

A major difference between pronouns and nouns generally is that pronouns do not take the or a/an before them. Further, pronouns do not take adjectives before them, except in very restricted constructions involving some indefinite pronouns (a little something, a certain someone).

While the class of nouns as a whole is an open class, the subclass of pronouns is closed.

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