Pronouns

Personal Pronouns

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.

           Subject                     Object
SINGULAR                         
1st person                 I                           me
2nd person               you                        you
3rd person                he          (masc.)    him
                she         (fem.)       her
                 it           (neut.)      it

PLURAL                         
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
  •  gender
  •  case

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.

Multiple Objects

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.
                       IO                 DO
They told                 us                 it.
                       IO                 DO

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.
               DO                         
They told                 it         to                 us.
               DO                         

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.

Reflexive Pronouns


      SINGULAR         PLURAL
1st person          myself               ourselves
2nd person         yourself             yourselves
          himself         
3rd person         herself               themselves
          itself         


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.



Indefinite Pronouns

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.