Welcome to our Grammar For Beginners series. I have been writing about parts of speech, and I will be writing about pronouns today.
What are parts of speech?
Language is made up of different words with different functions. These words are are known as parts of speech.
These categories are:
We discussed pronouns when we wrote about nouns, but we will go into more depth in today’s post.
All About Pronouns
‘Pronouns are used in place of a noun that has already been mentioned or that is already known, often to avoid repeating the noun.’ Source: Oxford Dictionaries
Personal pronouns are used in place of nouns referring to specific people or things.
- I, me, mine
- you, yours
- his, her, hers
- we, they, or them
We divide them into different categories according to their role in a sentence, as follows:
- Subjective pronouns
- Objective pronouns
- Possessive pronouns
The personal pronouns I, you, we, he, she, it, and they are called subjective pronouns. We use these when the pronoun is the subject of the sentence.
- She saw her children.
- We gave the money to charity.
- I stared at Terry.
We should also use them if they rename the subject. They follow ‘to be’ verbs like: is, are, was, were, am, will be, had been
- It is he.
- This is she speaking.
- It is we who need to make the decision.
(Please note that it is accepted in informal English that most people follow ‘to be’ verbs with object pronouns like me, her, them. For example: ‘It is me.’ should actually be written as ‘ It is I.’)
Tip: When ‘who’ refers to a subjective pronoun (I, you, he, she, we, they), it takes the verb that agrees with that pronoun.
- It is I who am responsible.
- It is you who are mistaken.
These are the personal pronouns: me, you, us, him, her, it, and them. They are called objective pronouns because they act as the objects of verbs and prepositions. We use an objective pronoun when the pronoun is the direct object, the indirect object, or the object of the verb or preposition.
- Between you and me, this will take a long time.
- The children saw him.
- Peter looked at them.
Suggested reading: Between you and me
The personal pronouns mine, yours, hers, his, ours, and theirs are known as possessive pronouns. They are used to refer to something owned by the speaker or by someone or something previously mentioned. Tip: They never need apostrophes. Avoid mistakes like their’s and her’s.
- That car is mine.
- Grant’s hands found hers under the table.
- Theirs is a family business.
Pronouns that end in -self or -selves are called reflexive pronouns. There are nine of them: myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, oneself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves.
We use reflexive pronouns when both the subject and the object of a verb are the same person or thing. Without them, we would have to write nonsense sentences like ‘Sarah hated Sarah’ instead of ‘Sarah hated herself’.
- He tripped and injured himself.
- The family prepared themselves for the worst.
- I had to look after myself.
Intensive pronouns take the same forms as reflexive pronouns but are used to emphasise a noun or pronoun.
- He himself is his greatest admirer.
- She herself visited the company.
Demonstrative pronouns modify nouns. Examples: this, that, these and those. The demonstrative pronoun takes the place of the noun phrase.
- Those are my favourite sweets.
- That tastes delicious.
If you use a demonstrative pronoun, you need to indicate what you’re talking about by pointing at it, Demonstrative pronouns are mostly used in spoken English. You can only them in written English if it the noun to which the demonstrative pronoun refers is clear.
According to Dictionary.com this could be:
A list, for example, in close proximity to (either before or after) “these” or “those” would be clear enough.
“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings – these are a few of my favourite things.”
Or you could refer to a description of an object, activity or situation as “this” or “that” if you do so immediately following the description.
They make you wear rented shoes, you always smell bad when you leave, my thumb nail always breaks off, and I’m not good at it. That is why I hate bowling.
Tip: Don’t confuse demonstrative pronouns and demonstrative adjectives. The words are the same, but a demonstrative pronoun can stand alone. A demonstrative adjective always qualifies a noun.
Example of a demonstrative pronoun: I ate that on Monday.
Example of demonstrative adjective: I ate that cake on Monday.
Here are a few more examples:
We use relative pronouns to connect a clause or phrase to a noun or pronoun. The most common relative pronouns are who, whom, whose, which, that. The relative pronoun we use depends on what we are referring to and the type of relative clause.
- I don’t know the family who live here.
- We visited my old university, which was renamed last year.
- He served in the same unit that my grandfather belonged to.
We use interrogative pronouns to ask questions.
- What is used to ask about things, not people.
- Which is used to show a choice among two or more items.
- Whose is a possessive pronoun used to find out whom something belongs to.
- Who is used to ask for information about what people are doing or who they are.
- Whom is used to find out whom an action is being done to, not who is doing an action. It is also used with prepositions.
An indefinite pronoun is one that doesn’t refer to a specific person or thing. It takes the place of a noun, but not a particular noun. Examples: all, another, any, anybody/anyone, anything, each, everybody/everyone, everything, few, many, nobody, none, one, several, some, somebody/someone, everywhere, nowhere.
- Anything is possible as long as you put your mind to it.
- I won’t tell your secret to anyone.
- I looked everywhere for my keys.
- Some are better than others.
- I have nobody to talk to.
Tip: Many indefinite pronouns can also be used as adjectives.
Good luck with your pronouns!
Suggested reading: 5 Ways To Stay Gender Neutral And Solve Problems With Pronouns
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