In this section, we consider three types of word which can be seen as pronouns or adjectives, depending on
form and, more important, function.
- Remember: an adjective modifies a noun; a pronoun replaces it.
Examine the following table:
Demonstrative this / these this / these
that / those that/those
Interrogative which which
who / whom
Possessive Interrogative whose whose
Possessive my mine
Notice two things: (1) while the forms in many cases are identical, the function is quite different; (2) many of the
words you have already seen playing other roles (e.g., who and that are relative pronouns). It is important to
recognize their new functions.
Demonstratives are used to pinpoint something specifically, often according to its physical location:
These pizzas are hot. Those are cold.
Demonstratives change their form to agree in number only. However, in other languages, the form is likely to
agree in gender and case as well.
The need to know the function of a word is never more clearly demonstrated than in the use of the word that.
English takes the same form and uses it in four quite different ways, and so it is essential to know the function of
this word before we can assign it a grammatical label.
We have already seen that 'that' can function as a relative pronoun
The vase that was broken was my mother's.
and as a subordinating conjunction
I know that she loved the vase.
Now we can identify it functioning as a demonstrative adjective:
That house is the one we've been hoping to buy for ages.
and as a demonstrative pronoun:
Give me that!
Interrogatives, as their name suggests, ask a question:
Which group do you support? Which is better?
What kind of dressing would you like? What would you like?
Who can function only as a pronoun. But notice that its form changes according to case. Along with personal
pronouns, this is one of the few areas where form and function both change in English.
SUBJECTIVE: Who is speaking tonight?
OBJECTIVE: Whom do you like best?
To whom are you referring?
POSSESSIVE: Whose (car) are you driving?
Whose is an interrogative with a possessive meaning. It can be used as either a pronoun or an adjective,
depending on whether it modifies or replaces a noun:
Whose book did you take?
Whose did you take this time?
The answer to a question like this would contain a possessive: "John's book" or "Her book" or simply "Yours."
Remember that in forms such as yours, hers and theirs, there is no apostrophe.
Your car is being serviced. Let's take mine.
I don't like their approach. I really admire hers.