What is a Pronoun?

In grammar, a pronoun is defined as a word or phrase that may be substituted for a noun or noun phrase, which once replaced, is known as the pronoun’s antecedent. How is this possible? In a nutshell, it’s because pronouns can do everything that nouns can do. A pronoun can act as a subject, direct object, indirect object, object of the preposition, and more.

Without pronouns, we’d have to keep on repeating nouns, and that would make our speech and writing repetitive, not to mention cumbersome. Most pronouns are very short words. Examples include:

  • He
  • She
  • They
  • It
  • We
  • Who

As mentioned, pronouns are usually used to replace nouns, however they can also stand in for certainadverbs, adjectives, and other pronouns. Anytime you want to talk about a person, animal, place or thing, you can use pronouns to make your speech or writing flow better.

Types of Pronouns

Pronouns can be divided into numerous categories including:

  • Indefinite pronouns – those referring to one or more unspecified objects, beings, or places
  • Personal pronouns – those associated with a certain person, thing, or group; all except you have distinct forms that indicate singular or plural number
  • Reflexive pronouns – those preceded by the adverb, adjective, pronoun, or noun to which they refer, and ending in –self or –selves
  • Demonstrative pronouns – those used to point to something specific within a sentence
  • Possessive pronouns – those designating possession or ownership
  • Relative pronouns – those which refer to nouns mentioned previously, acting to introduce an adjective (relative) clause
  • Interrogative pronouns – those which introduce a question
  • Reciprocal pronouns – those expressing mutual actions or relationship; i.e. one another
  • Intensive pronouns – those ending in –self or –selves and that serve to emphasize their antecedents

Pronoun Rules

There are a few important rules for using pronouns. As you read through these rules and the examples in the next section, notice how the pronoun rules are followed. Soon you’ll see that pronouns are easy to work with.

  • Subject pronouns may be used to begin sentences. For example: We did a great job.
  • Subject pronouns may also be used to rename the subject. For example: It was she who decided we should go to Hawaii.
  • Indefinite pronouns don’t have antecedents. They are capable of standing on their own. For example: No one likes the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard.
  • Object pronouns are used as direct objects, indirect objects, and objects of prepositions. These include: you, me, him, her, us, them, and it. For example: David talked to her about the mistake.
  • Possessive pronouns show ownership. They do not need apostrophes. For example: The cat washed its whiskers.

Examples of Pronouns

In the following examples, the pronouns are italicized.

  1. We are going on vacation.
  2. Don’t tell me that you can’t go with us.
  3. Anybody who says it won’t be fun has no clue what they are talking about.
  4. These are terribly steep stairs.
  5. We ran into each other at the mall.
  6. I’m not sure which is worse: rain or snow.
  7. It is one of the nicest Italian restaurants in town.
  8. Richard stared at himself in the mirror.
  9. The laundry isn’t going to do itself.
  10. Someone spilled orange juice all over the countertop!

Pronoun Exercises