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Examples
  • I love you.
  • That reminds me of something.
  • He looked at them.
  • Take it or leave it.
  • Who would say such a thing?

In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun is a word that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase. It is a particular case of a pro-form.

Pronouns have traditionally been regarded as one of the parts of speech, but some modern theorists would not limit them to a single class because of the variety of functions they perform, including that of the personal pronouns, relative pronouns, interrogative pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, possessive pronouns, and indefinite pronouns.[1]:1–34

The use of pronouns often involves anaphora, where the meaning of the pronoun is dependent on another referential element. This applies particularly to the (third-person) personal pronouns. The referent of the pronoun is often the same as that of a preceding (or sometimes following) noun phrase, called the antecedent of the pronoun. For example, in the sentence That poor man looks as if he needs a new coat, the antecedent of the pronoun he is the noun phrase that poor man. (Pronouns used without antecedents are sometimes called unprecursed pronouns.) Another type of antecedent is that found with relative pronouns, as in the woman who looked at you, where the woman is the antecedent of the relative pronoun who.

Classification[edit]

Pronouns can be divided into several categories: personal, indefinite, reflexive, reciprocal, possessive, demonstrative, interrogative and relative...[2]

Personal[edit]

Main article: Personal pronoun
English personal pronouns[2]:52
Person Number Case
Subject Object
First Singular I me
Plural we us
Second Singular you you
Plural you you
Third Singular he, she, it him, her, they, it
Plural they them

Personal pronouns may be classified by person, number and case. In the English language, there are three persons (first, second and third), each of which can be divided into two forms by number (singular and plural), as in the table. Third person also distinguishes gender (male, female or neuter).[2]:52–53

English has two cases, subject and object. Subject pronouns are used when the person or thing is the subject of the sentence or clause (I like to eat chips, but she does not.). Object pronouns are used when the person or thing is the object of the sentence or clause (John likes me but not her).[2]:52–53

Other distinctions include:

  • Second person formal and informal pronouns (T-V distinction). For example, vous and tu in French. There is no distinction in modern English though Elizabethan English marked the distinction with "thou" (singular informal) and "you" (plural or singular formal).
  • Inclusive and exclusive "we" pronouns indicate whether the audience is included. There is no distinction in English.
  • Intensive pronouns, also known as emphatic pronouns, re-emphasize a noun or pronoun that has already been mentioned. English uses the same forms as the reflexive pronouns; for example: "I did it myself " (contrast reflexive use, I did it to myself.).
  • Direct and indirect object pronouns. English uses the same oblique form for both; for example: Mary loves him (direct object); Mary sent him a letter (indirect object).
  • Prepositional pronouns come after a preposition. No distinct forms exist in English; for example: Anna and Maria looked at him.
  • Disjunctive pronouns are used in isolation or in certain other special grammatical contexts. No distinct forms exist in English; for example: Who does this belong to? Me.
  • Dummy pronouns are used when grammatical rules require a noun (or pronoun), but none is semantically required (It is raining.).
  • Weak pronouns.

Reflexive[edit]

Main article: Reflexive pronoun

Reflexive pronouns are used when a person or thing acts on itself, for example, John cut himself. In English they all end in -self or -selves and must refer to a noun phrase elsewhere in the same clause.[2]:55

Reciprocal[edit]

Main article: Reciprocal pronoun

Reciprocal pronouns refer to a reciprocal relationship (each other, one another). They must refer to a noun phrase in the same clause.[2]:55 An example in English is: They do not like each other.

Possessive[edit]

Main article: Possessive pronoun

Possessive pronouns are used to indicate possession or ownership. Some occur as independent noun phrases: mine, yours, hers, ours, yours, theirs. An example is: Those clothes are mine. Others do not: my, your, her, our, your, their, as in, I lost my wallet. (Depending on the context, his and its can fall in either category.) Because the latter have a syntactic role close to that of adjectives, always qualifying a noun, some grammarians classify them as determiners. They replace possessive noun phrases. As an example, Their crusade to capture our attention could replace The advertisers' crusade to capture our attention.[2]:55–56

Demonstrative[edit]

Main article: Demonstrative pronoun

Demonstrative pronouns (in English, this, that and their plurals these, those) often distinguish their targets by pointing or some other indication of position; for example, I'll take these. They may also be anaphoric, depending on an earlier expression for context, for example, A kid actor would try to be all sweet, and who needs that?[2]:56

Indefinite[edit]

Main article: Indefinite pronoun

Indefinite pronouns, the largest group of pronouns, refer to one or more unspecified persons or things. One group in English includes compounds of some-, any-, every- and no- with -thing, -one and -body, for example: Anyone can do that. Another group, including many, more, both, and most, can appear alone or followed by of.[2]:54–55 In addition,

  • Distributive pronouns are used to refer to members of a group separately rather than collectively. (To each his own.)
  • Negative pronouns indicate the non-existence of people or things. (Nobody thinks that.)

Relative[edit]

Main article: Relative pronoun

Relative pronouns (who, whom, whose, what, which and that) refer back to people or things previously mentioned: People who smoke should quit now. They are used in relative clauses.[2]:56 Indefinite relative pronouns have some of the properties of both relative pronouns and indefinite pronouns. They have a sense of "referring back", but the person or thing to which they refer has not previously been explicitly named: I know what I like.

Interrogative[edit]

Main article: Interrogative word

Interrogative pronouns ask which person or thing is meant. In reference to a person, one may use who (subject), whom (object) or whose (possessive); for example, Who did that? In colloquial speech, whom is generally replaced by who. Non-personal pronouns (which and what) have only one form.[2]:56–57

In many languages (e.g., Czech, English, French, Interlingua, and Russian), the sets of relative and interrogative pronouns are nearly identical. Compare English: Who is that? (interrogative) to I know who that is.

Pronouns and determiners[edit]

Pronoun Determiner
Personal (1st/2nd) we we Brits
Possessive ours our freedom
Demonstrative this this gentleman
Indefinite some some frogs
Interrogative who which option

Pronouns and determiners are closely related, and some linguists think pronouns are actually determiners without a noun or a noun phrase.[3] The table shows their relationships in English.

In some languages, including German, the term “determiner” is not used, or has only come into limited use recently. Instead determiners are defined as pronouns. What would be called a pronoun in English is, if necessary, specified as a “substantival pronoun”. Determiners are called “adjectival pronouns”.

The views of different schools[edit]

Pronouns have been classified as one of the parts of speech since at least the 2nd century BC when they were included in the Greek treatise Art of Grammar. Objections to this approach have appeared among grammatical theories in the 20th century. Their grammatical heterogeneity, many-sided pronouns were underlined, which were classified as follows:[clarification needed]

Pronominals[edit]

A pronominal is a phrase that acts as a pronoun. For example, in "That's not the one I wanted", the phrase the one is a pronominal.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bhat, Darbhe Narayana Shankara (2007). Pronouns (Paperback ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199230242. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Börjars, Kersti; Burridge, Kate (2010). Introducing English grammar (2nd ed.). London: Hodder Education. pp. 50–57. ISBN 978-1444109870. 
  3. ^ a b Postal, Paul (1966). "On So-Called "Pronouns" in English". In Dinneen, Francis P. Report of the Seventeenth Annual Round Table Meeting on Linguistics and Language Studies (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press): 177–206 
  4. ^ Мамедов Дж. М. (2005). "Систематизация синтаксиса" [Systematization of syntaxes]. Социальные науки (in Russian) 21 (1): 17–18. ISSN 1683-7649. 
  5. ^ Loos, Eugene E.; Susan Anderson; Dwight H. Day, Jr.; Paul C. Jordan; J. Douglas Wingate. "What is a pronominal?". Glossary of linguistic terms. SIL International. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Wales, Katie (1995). Personal pronouns in present-day English (Digital print. ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521471022. 

External links[edit]


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