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Pronouns are a relatively small, closed class of words that function in the place of nouns or noun phrases. They include personal pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, relative pronouns, interrogative pronouns, and some others, mainly indefinite pronouns.


The personal pronouns of modern standard English, and the corresponding possessive forms, are as follows:

Possessive determiner
Possessive pronoun
1st pers. sing.Imemyselfmymine
2nd pers. sing./pl.youyouyourself/yourselvesyouryours
3rd pers. sing.she, he, they, ither, him, them, itherself, himself, themself, itselfher, his, their, itshers, his, theirs, its
1st pers. pl.weusourselvesourours
3rd pers. pl.theythemthemselvestheirtheirs

The second-person forms such as you are used with both singular and plural reference. You can also be used as an indefinite pronoun, referring to a person in general compared to the more formal alternative, one) (reflexive oneself, possessive one's).

The third-person singular forms are differentiated according to the sex of the referent. For example, she is used to refer to a female person, sometimes a female animal, and sometimes an object to which female characteristics are attributed, such as a ship or a country. A male person, and sometimes a male animal, is referred to using he. In other cases it can be used. The word it can also be used as a dummy subject, in sentences like It is going to be sunny this afternoon.

The third-person plural forms such as they are sometimes used with singular reference, as a gender-neutral pronoun, as in each employee should ensure they tidy their desk. Despite its long history, this usage is sometimes considered ungrammatical.

The possessive determiners such as my are used as determiners together with nouns, as in my old man, some of his friends. The second possessive forms like mine are used when they do not qualify a noun: as pronouns, as in mine is bigger than yours, and as predicates, as in this one is mine. Note also the construction a friend of mine (meaning "someone who is my friend").

Demonstrative and Interrogative

The demonstrative pronouns of English are this (plural these), and that (plural those), as in these are good, I like that. Note that all four words can also be used as determiners (followed by a noun), as in those cars. They can also form the alternative pronominal expressions this/that one, these/those ones.

The interrogative pronouns are who, what, and which (all of them can take the suffix -ever for emphasis). The pronoun who refers to a person or people; it has an oblique form whom (though in informal contexts this is usually replaced by who), and a possessive form (pronoun or determiner) whose. The pronoun what refers to things or abstracts. The word which is used to ask about alternatives from what is seen as a closed set: which (of the books) do you like best? (It can also be an interrogative determiner: which book?; this can form the alternative pronominal expressions which one and which ones.) Which, who, and what can be either singular or plural, although who and what often take a singular verb regardless of any supposed number.

All the interrogative pronouns can also be used as relative pronouns; see below for more details.


The main relative pronouns in English are who (with its derived forms whom and whose), which, and that.

The relative pronoun which refers to things rather than persons, as in the shirt, which used to be red, is faded. For persons, who is used (the man who saw me was tall). The oblique case form of who is whom, as in the man whom I saw was tall, although in informal registers who is commonly used in place of whom.

The possessive form of who is whose (the man whose car is missing ...); however the use of whose is not restricted to persons (one can say an idea whose time has come).

The word that as a relative pronoun is normally found only in restrictive relative clauses (unlike which and who, which can be used in both restrictive and unrestrictive clauses). It can refer to either persons or things, and cannot follow a preposition. For example, one can say the song that [or which] I listened to yesterday, but the song to which [not to that] I listened yesterday. The relative pronoun that is usually pronounced with a reduced vowel, and hence differently from the demonstrative that. If that is not the subject of the relative clause, it can be omitted (the song I listened to yesterday).

The word what can be used to form a free relative clause – one that has no antecedent and that serves as a complete noun phrase in itself, as in I like what he likes. The words whatever and whichever can be used similarly, in the role of either pronouns (whatever he likes) or determiners (whatever book he likes). When referring to persons, who(ever) (and whom(ever)) can be used in a similar way (but not as determiners).


The word there is used as a pronoun in some sentences, playing the role of a dummy subject, normally of an intransitive verb. The "logical subject" of the verb then appears as a complement after the verb.

This use of there occurs most commonly with forms of the verb be in existential clauses, to refer to the presence or existence of something. For example: There is a heaven; There are two cups on the table; There have been a lot of problems lately. It can also be used with other verbs: There exist two major variants; There occurred a very strange incident.

The dummy subject takes the number (singular or plural) of the logical subject (complement), hence it takes a plural verb if the complement is plural. In informal English, however, the contraction there's is often used for both singular and plural.

The dummy subject can undergo inversion, Is there a test today? and Never has there been a man such as this. It can also appear without a corresponding logical subject, in short sentences and question tags: ''There wasn't a discussion, was there? There was.''

The word there in such sentences has sometimes been analyzed as an adverb, or as a dummy predicate, rather than as a pronoun. However, its identification as a pronoun is most consistent with its behavior in inverted sentences and question tags as described above.

Because the word there can also be a deictic adverb (meaning "at/to that place"), a sentence like There is a river could have either of two meanings: "a river exists" (with there as a pronoun), and "a river is in that place" (with there as an adverb).


Other pronouns in English are often identical in form to determiners (especially quantifiers), such as many, a little, etc. Sometimes, the pronoun form is different, as with none (corresponding to the determiner no), nothing, everyone, somebody, etc. Many examples are listed as indefinite pronouns. Another indefinite (or impersonal) pronoun is one) (with its reflexive form oneself and possessive one's), which is a more formal alternative to generic you.

License: CC BY-SA 3.0. Source: wikipedia (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

See also

Countable and uncountable

Grammatical case