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 English Grammar for ESL learners 


PRONOUNS

English pronouns explained with examples of use.


Pronouns are words used in place of nouns and noun phrases.
They usually refer back to people and things already identified.
The different types of pronouns are explained below.

Type of pronoun Example
Personal
Subject
Object

I, you, he, she, it, we, they
me, you, him, her, it, us, them
Possessive mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs
Reflexive myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves
Interrogative who, whose, whom, which, what
Relative who, which, that
Demonstrative this, that, these, those
Indefinite anybody, anyone, someone, something, anything, everything, everyone, nobody
Reciprocal each other, one another
Numeral one, first, second ...

Personal pronouns: (I, me, you, him, it, they, etc.)
We use personal pronouns in place of noun phrases.

  • Hugo complained to the manager about the service.
    She wasn’t helpful so he was very unsatisfied.
    (she = the manager, he = Hugo)
  • A: Where are the keys? I can’t find them.
    B: They're in the drawer. (they/them = the keys)
Personal pronouns can be subject or object pronouns.
  • Subject pronouns act as the subject of a clause.
    We use them before a verb to show who is doing the action.
    - Eva won the race. She was very happy.
  • Object pronouns can be used in all other positions, such as after the verb or after a preposition:
    - Eva's parents drove her to the sports stadium.
    - She was grateful for everything her parents did for her.

Possessive pronouns (mine, yours, his...)
We use possessive pronouns instead of full noun phrases to avoid repeating words.
N.B. Possessive pronouns do not take an apostrophe.

  • Is this Julie's handbag? No, it's mine. (NOT: No, it's my handbag.)
  • Julie's handbag is black. Mine is brown. (NOT: My handbag is brown..
  • Hugo's car is black. Theirs is blue. (NOT: Their car is blue./Their's is blue.)
Possessive pronouns can be used after of. For example:
  • Alex is one of my friends. He is a friend of mine. (NOT: a friend of me.)
  • Carla and a friend of hers prepared all the food.

Reflexive pronouns end in -self or -selves.
(These are also called compound pronouns.)
There are nine reflexive pronouns: myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, oneself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves.
They are used:
- when the subject and object refer to the same person or thing:

  • He injured himself when he was gardening.
  • Parents often blame themselves for their children's behaviour.
  • You should buy yourself a new outfit for the interview.
- to make it clear who or what is being referred to:
  • Tania saw herself in the mirror. (herself = Tania) The subject and object are the same.
  • Tania saw her in the mirror. (her = someone else) The subject and object are different.
- for emphasis:
  • The director himself wrote to us to apologise for the poor service.
  • The response was better than what we ourselves had expected.

Interrogative pronouns (who, which, what...)
Interrogative pronouns are used to ask questions.
There are five interrogative pronouns: who, whom, whose, what, which.

  • Who ate all the chocolate? Charlie did./It was Charlie.
  • Whom do I ask for at the reception? Ask for Tom.
  • Who wrote the article. Our teacher.
  • The article was written by whom?
  • By our teacher.
  • Whose bag is this? It's Carla's.
  • What did your friend give you? He/she gave me a book.
  • Which colour do you prefer: blue or green? I prefer blue.
*More here

Relative pronouns (who, which, that)
Relative pronouns are used to introduce relative clauses.
(Relative clauses gives more information about people and things.)
We use:
- who and whom for people
- which for things
- that for people or things.

  • Jack is the man who owns the restaurant.
  • The castle, which is 300 years old, is open to the public.
  • This is the train that goes to Lisbon.
  • There were only a few people that I knew.

Demonstrative pronouns (this, that, these, those)
Demonstrative pronouns are used to point something out, something near or far in distance or time.

  • This is an apple. That is a pear.
  • These are my shoes. Those are yours.
  • There are too many books here. Put these on the shelf.
  • You're allowed to take those home.
*More here

Indefinite pronouns (anyone, nobody, something...)
Indefinite pronouns refer to non-specific people or things.
They allow us to talk about people or things without saying exactly who or what they are.
Examples are:
all, another, any, anybody/anyone, anything, each, everybody/everyone, everything, few, many, nobody, none, one, several, some, somebody/someone.

  • Seats are available for anyone who wants to sit down.
  • Would you like something to drink?
  • Help yourselves. Everything is free.
  • Someone is responsible for the accident.
  • Among the students in my class, few are silent.
  • Many find it difficult to cope with illness.
  • Happy birthday from all at home.

Reciprocal pronouns (each other, one another)
Reciprocal pronouns are used to indicate reciprocity of action, feeling, or behavior between two or more people.
There is very little difference between each other and one another and we can normally use them in the same places. However some authorities encourage the use of:
- Each other for two subjects.
- One another for more than two people.

  • My husband and Bob never liked each other.
  • The guests shook hands with one another.
  • The two friends give each other presents at Christmas.
  • The students got to know one another very quickly.
There is no plural form of each other or one another.
  • The children love each other.
  • The four brothers don't see one another very often.

Numeral pronouns (one, two, first, second...)
Either a cardinal number (one, two) or an ordinal number (first, second) can be used to take the place of a noun in a sentence.

  • Which house did you buy? We bought the old one.
  • There were several dances. The first was a tango, the second was a waltz, the third was a jive.

Order of pronouns
When more than one personal pronoun is used with a verb, the usual order is 231: second, third, first.
The 2nd person is placed before the 3rd person, the 3rd or 2nd person before the 1st person .

  • You, he and I will sing the first song.
  • You and she should begin the proceedings.
  • You and I will arrange the seating.
  • He and I will greet the bridal couple.
  • She and I get on very well.
If plural, the sequence 123 is used:
  • We, you and they are going by car.
If the sentence is 'confessional' and refers for example to guilt or a mistake, the usual order is 123: first, second, third.
  • I, you and he are responsible for the disorder.


See also:   I vs Me Who vs Whom

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Please note that British English spelling is used on this website.

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