Pronoun

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This article is part of the grammar course.

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As the name suggests, pronouns are words that stand for (pro) nouns. There are several kinds.

  • The easiest for beginners to understand are the Personal pronouns. These are words like she, which stands for 'any female person I have just been talking about'; he ('any male person ...'); and I, which stands for 'the person who is actually talking'. Note that it is usually classed as a personal pronoun, although it refers to 'any thing of which we are speaking' rather than any person.
    • It has been called the impersonal pronoun for this reason - and because it functions as a dummy Subject with impersonal verbs: it has also been called formal it, unspecified it, Dummy it, empty it , prop it and introductory it by various grammarians keen to point out the nuances of the word's usage in the very subtle grammar of English, whose rules are heard to define.
    • AWE prefers to use the term impersonal pronoun for one, used in the senses 'any person of undefined identity' (OED), and sometimes the first person 'I' or 'me'. This is called the 'indefinite pronoun' by some grammarians.
  • Relative pronouns - sometimes called wh- words - are pronouns which relate one meaning to another meaning. The commonest are which, who and whose. Where and when also sometimes fall into this class.
  • Demonstrative pronouns show (demonstrate) what you are talking about. Don't confuse them with demonstrative possessives (such as mine, yours, etc). This, that, these and those are the commonest - but they are only pronouns when they are single words, standing for a noun, e.g. "That is the one I want". (The same words can be used with nouns, e.g. "I want that book", when they are called demonstrative adjectives.)
  • Interrogative pronouns are used to ask questions. In form, they are wh- words, and are the same as relative pronouns. For example: "Which article are you reading?".

Unlike nouns in English, personal pronouns are 'declinable': they may be inflected. Changes in their form indicate case, number and gender. See the Table of personal pronouns.