A pronoun is a word which stands in place of a noun. A pronoun can replace a noun or its equivalent. In fact,
you can test if a word or group of words is functioning as a noun by replacing it with a pronoun.
1st person I me
2nd person you you
3rd person he (masc.) him
she (fem.) her
it (neut.) it
1st person we us
2nd person you you
3rd person they them
A personal pronoun stands for a noun indicating a person, an animal, a thing, a place or an event. Although the
name suggests these pronouns might refer only to people, the third person pronouns it and they can stand for
any noun or its equivalent.
Tom and Jerry both teach skydiving.
They both teach skydiving.
My neighbours' cat was run over by a bus.
She was run over by a bus.
Getting the door unlocked took a long time.
It took a long time.
The fact that you never clean your room bothers me.
It bothers me.
A personal pronoun changes form according to
- person and number
Notice that the personal pronouns are among the few grammatical categories which change their form radically
to reflect person, number, gender, and case in English.
The personal pronoun can function as the subject or as the object. Remember that the objective case has three
specific types in English:
Direct Object: I hear them.
Indirect Object: I will tell them the truth.
Object of a Preposition: I worry about them.
In each case the form is identical, but the function is different. In other languages, there is a good chance that
the form will change as its function changes.
We have already discussed the difference between direct (DO) and indirect (IO) objects, but notice what
happens when both of these occur as pronouns in the same sentence:
She gave me it.
They told us it.
Here you must ask what is being given or told, which in each case is the noun represented by it. You could also
reword the sentence by adding the word to:
She gave it to me.
They told it to us.
These sentences clearly show the difference between the direct and indirect objects, something which becomes
even more important in a (rare) sentence like this:
He told me that he had given them them last night.
1st person myself ourselves
2nd person yourself yourselves
3rd person herself themselves
Reflexive pronouns refer back to the subject of the sentence, helping to describe an action that directly involves
that subject. As you can see from the table above, the reflexive pronoun agrees with its subject in person,
number, and (in the third person singular) gender.
I dressed myself. (I got dressed.)
They fed themselves.
We took it upon ourselves to do the work.
These pronouns are always in the third person and refer to unidentified or unspecified persons or things.
Examples include one, few, something.
Something is happening today.
It looks as though he's had a few.
When one is a tourist, one encounters many new things.
The pronoun one is not commonly used in North American English, but is often found in British English. We
usually substitute the pronoun you in North America:
When you are a tourist, you encounter many new things.
Notice that the verb must now agree with the 2nd person pronoun, rather than 3rd person, one.