Types of Pronouns for English Grammar (page 2)
Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:
Types of Pronouns
There are many types of pronouns. The most important are personal, impersonal, relative, demonstrative, interrogative, reflexive, intensive, reciprocal, and indefinite. As a first step in learning these terms, examine the following examples of each type:
- Personal pronouns: I, you, he, she, we, they, one
- Impersonal pronouns: it, they
- Relative pronouns: who, which, that, whoever, whichever
- Demonstrative pronouns: this, that, these, those
- Interrogative pronouns: who, which, what, whoever, whatever
- Reflexive pronouns: myself, yourself, himself, herself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves, itself
- Intensive pronouns: myself, yourself, himself, herself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves, itself
- Reciprocal pronouns: each other, one another
- Indefinite pronouns: each, either, any, anyone, some, someone, all
Personal and Impersonal Pronouns
Personal pronouns refer to people. Impersonal pronouns refer to everything but people.
Personal and impersonal pronouns can be singular or plural. They can also be in the subjective, possessive, or objective case. Personal pronouns may also indicate gender.
The following table summarizes personal and impersonal pronouns in number, case, and gender:
The following sentences illustrate the uses of personal and impersonal pronouns in each of the three cases:
- I (We, You, They) see the entire scene.
- He (She, It, One) sees the entire scene.
- The mistake was mine (ours, yours, hers, his, theirs).
- Mine (Ours, Yours, His, Hers, Theirs) was the only part that required revision.
- The editor criticizes me (us, him, her, one, them, it).
- Relative pronouns refer to people and objects.
- They are used in the three cases:
|which||of which, whose||which, whom|
Who refers to people; that to people or objects; which to animals, objects, or collective nouns.
The following sentences illustrate the uses of who, that, and which in all their cases:
- A woman who wants to succeed in business must dedicate herself to that end.
- The boat that won the race had an outstanding crew.
- Which of the contracts was witnessed by a notary public?
- Whose automobile gave out first?
- I have had enough of that.
- The problem of which you spoke has a simple solution.
- The board of trustees, whose unanimous approval is needed, failed to act in time.
- The minor literary figures to whom you refer surely merit no further study.
- You cannot object to that!
- The journals to which he contributes make no claims about his professional integrity.
- American authors to whom respect is due include Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner.
Whoever, whomever, whichever, and whatever are also classified as relative pronouns:
- Whoever said Amy would become an outstanding computer programmer must have had a crystal ball.
- Give it to whomever you decide needs most help.
- You have three choices: whichever you overlook will bring you nothing but trouble.
- Whatever soldiers do, they must be prepared to stand by their actions.
Demonstrative pronouns replace nouns and function in the same manner as nouns in a sentence.
The principal demonstrative pronouns are: this, that, these, and those. (See demonstrative adjectives, page 103.) This and that are singular. These and those are plural.
Demonstrative pronouns have no gender, but they do have case.
The following sentences illustrate the uses of the demonstrative pronouns in all their cases:
- This is more than I can possibly eat in one sitting.
- That remains my last obstacle to success in college.
- These are my only objections to the entire plan.
- Those were the bequests that caused so much family wrangling.
- The principal advantages of this are economy, beauty, and strength.
- Of these, only a few are worthy of full consideration.
- Of those, none is worthy of serious comment.
- We agreed to give this our full attention.
- They decided against that at least ten years ago.
- The harsh weather killed these last month.
- Choose among those and let me know your decisions as soon as possible.
Other demonstrative pronouns commonly encountered are former, latter, other, such, so, same, and the ordinal numbers: first, second, third, etc.
The following sentences illustrate the use of these demonstrative pronouns:
- The former, not the latter, was the one I intended to bid on.
- Such is not the case, despite what you think she said.
- He told her so.
- Now give me the other.
- Enclosed find payment for same. (Old-fashioned business correspondence usage.)
- The first was my choice, even though the fourth and sixth also caught my eye.
Interrogative pronouns are used in asking questions. The principal interrogative pronouns are who, which, and what. Whoever and whatever occur less frequently.
Who is used for people. Which and what are used for things. These pronouns do not have gender.
The following sentences illustrate the uses of interrogative pronouns in all their cases:
- Who stole her collection of compact disks?
- Which performs best when the stock market is going down?
- What is going to happen to us after she leaves the company?
- Whose did you take?
- Of which did you despair first?
- What do you think of all day long?
- Whom did you take to the senior prom?
- Which did you select?
- What have you decided to do about the problem we all face?
Reflexive pronouns are used in sentences containing verbs whose actions are directed toward the subjects of the verbs. These pronouns are formed by adding -self or -selves, as appropriate, to the personal pronouns or possessive adjectives my, your, him, her, our, them, one and the impersonal pronoun it.
The following sentences illustrate the uses of reflexive pronouns:
- He almost always cut himself while shaving.
- You are losing yourself in your work.
- She discovered herself after a period of intense introspection.
- Jan usually supported himself by teaching karate.
- We fail ourselves when we fail others.
- Ask yourselves whether you have done right by your families.
- They told themselves only what they wanted to hear.
- If one only did what was right for oneself!
- The giraffe found itself in trouble after its habitat was thoroughly sprayed with herbicide.
Intensive pronouns are used as appositives (see pages 100–101) to strengthen the subject of a verb.
Intensive pronouns have the same forms as reflexive pronouns: myself, yourself, himself, herself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves, oneself, and itself.
The following sentences illustrate the uses of the intensive pronouns:
- I myself can see little use in following a poorly conceived plan.
- I can see little use in that action myself.
- You yourself will have to take full responsibility for your budget.
- You will have to take full responsibility yourself.
- Henry himself was not at fault in that matter, we have been told.
- Henry was not at fault himself.
- Erica herself found little of interest in the new symphony.
- Erica found little of interest in the symphony herself.
- We ourselves are content to let the matter drop even though we have been hurt.
- We are content ourselves to let the matter drop.
- You yourselves can find the answers if you try hard enough.
- You can find the answers yourselves.
- The French themselves are abusing their language.
- The French are abusing their language themselves.
- The magazine itself is of little value.
- The magazine is of little value itself.
The reciprocal pronouns are one another and each other. One another is generally used when writing of more than two people. Both reciprocal pronouns have possessive and objective cases.
The following sentences illustrate uses of these pronouns:
- John and Jerry found each other's company satisfying.
- All thirty students sought one another's assistance.
- He and his wife caught themselves shouting at each other.
- He, his wife, and their daughter caught themselves shouting at one another.
- Neighbors up and down the road stopped speaking to one another.
Indefinite pronouns constitute a large number of imprecise words that can function as pronouns. The most frequently used are: all, another, any, anybody, anyone, anything, both, each one, either, everybody, everyone, everything, few, little, many, more, much, neither, nobody, none, no one, nothing, oneself, other, others, several, some, somebody, someone, something, and such.
The following sentences illustrate some uses of indefinite pronouns:
- All we can do is try our best and hope things turn out all right.
- This sweater fits anybody six or more feet tall.
- Each one is reviewed in turn and given a proficiency rating.
- I gave him nothing for his labors.
- If others were as concerned as he, there would be no problem.
- Someone must be held responsible for this heinous deed.
- The crowd was such that the police feared a break-in at the gate.
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