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Pronoun

A pronoun replaces a noun or another pronoun. Pronouns such as he, which, none and you make sentences less cumbersome and less repetitive.

Grammarians classify pronouns into several types: personal, demonstrative, interrogative, indefinite, relative, reflexive and intensive.

Personal pronouns

A personal pronoun refers to a specific person or thing and changes its form to indicate person, number, gender and case.

Subjective personal pronouns

A subjective personal pronoun indicates that the pronoun is acting as the subject of the sentence. The subjective personal pronouns are I, you, she, he, it, we and they.

In the following sentences, each of the highlighted words is a subjective personal pronoun and acts as a subject:

  • I was glad to find my bus pass in the bottom of my knapsack.
  • You are surely the strangest person I have ever met.
  • He stole the SUV and forced her to go with him.
  • When she was a young woman, she earned her living as a coal miner.
  • After many years, they returned to their homeland.
  • We will meet at the library at 3:30 p.m.
  • It is on the kitchen counter.
  • Are you the delegates from Prince Edward Island?

Objective personal pronouns

An objective personal pronoun indicates that the pronoun is acting as an object of a verb, compound verb, preposition or infinitive phrase. The objective personal pronouns are me, you, her, him, it, us and them.

In the following examples, each of the highlighted words is an objective personal pronoun.

Example Explanation
The carjacker stole the SUV and forced her to go with him. The objective personal pronoun her is the direct object of the verb forced, and the objective personal pronoun him is the object of the preposition with.
After reading the pamphlet, Judy threw it into the garbage can. The pronoun it is the direct object of the verb threw.
The moderator stood up, faced the angry delegates and said, "Our leader will address you in five minutes." The pronoun you is the direct object of the verb address.
Joe and Roberta will meet us at the Thai café in the market. Here the objective personal pronoun us is the direct object of the compound verb will meet.
Give the list to me. Here the objective personal pronoun me is the object of the preposition to.
I’m not sure that my contact will talk to you. The objective personal pronoun you is the object of the preposition to.
Christopher was surprised to see her at the drag races. Here the objective personal pronoun her is the object of the infinitive verb phrase to see.

Possessive personal pronouns

A possessive pronoun indicates that the pronoun is acting as a marker of possession and defines who owns the object or person referred to. The possessive personal pronouns are mine, yours, hers, his, its, ours and theirs. Note that possessive personal pronouns are very similar to possessive adjectives such as my, her and their.

In each of the following examples, the highlighted word is a possessive personal pronoun.

Example Explanation
The smallest and most expensive gift is mine. Here the possessive pronoun mine functions as a subject complement.
This is yours. Here too the possessive pronoun yours functions as a subject complement.
His is on the kitchen counter. The possessive pronoun his acts as the subject of the sentence.
Theirs will be delivered tomorrow. The possessive pronoun theirs is the subject of the sentence.
Ours is the green one on the corner. Here the possessive pronoun ours functions as the subject of the sentence.

Demonstrative pronouns

A demonstrative pronoun points to and identifies a noun or pronoun. The demonstrative pronouns are this, that, these and those.

This and these refer to things that are nearby either in space or in time, while that and those refer to things that are farther away in space or time.

This and that refer to singular nouns or noun phrases, and these and those refer to plural nouns and noun phrases. Though demonstrative pronouns are identical in form to demonstrative adjectives, they are used differently. It is also important to note that that can also be a relative pronoun.

In the following sentences, each of the highlighted words is a demonstrative pronoun.

Example Explanation
This must not continue. Here the pronoun this is used as the subject of the compound verb must not continue.
This is puny; that is the tree I want. The pronoun this is the subject and refers to something close to the speaker. The demonstrative pronoun that is also a subject but refers to something farther away from the speaker.
Three customers wanted these. Here the pronoun these is the direct object of the verb wanted.

Interrogative pronouns

An interrogative pronoun asks a question. The interrogative pronouns are who, whom, which, what and include the compounds formed with the suffix ever (whoever, whomever, whichever and whatever). Note that which and what are also interrogative adjectives. Likewise, who, whom and which are also relative pronouns.

Who, whom (and (occasionally) which) refer to people, while which and what refer to things and animals.

Who acts as the subject of a verb, and whom acts as the object of a verb, preposition or verbal.

The highlighted word in each of the following sentences is an interrogative pronoun.

Example Explanation
Which of you wants to see the dentist first? The pronoun which is the subject of the sentence.
Who wrote this novel? The pronoun who is the subject of the sentence.
Whom do you think we should invite? The pronoun whom is the object of the verb invite.
To whom do you wish to speak? Here the interrogative pronoun whom is the object of the preposition to.
Who will meet the delegates at the train station? The interrogative pronoun who is the subject of the compound verb will meet.
To whom did you give the paper? The interrogative pronoun whom is the object of the preposition to.
What did she say? Here the interrogative pronoun what is the direct object of the verb say.

Relative pronouns

A relative pronoun links one phrase or clause to another phrase or clause. The relative pronouns are who, whom, that and which. The compounds whoever, whomever and whichever are also relative pronouns.

The relative pronouns who and whoever refer to the subject of a clause or sentence, while whom and whomever refer to the objects of a verb, verbal or preposition.

In each of the following examples, the highlighted word is a relative pronoun.

Example Explanation
You may invite whomever you like to the party. The relative pronoun whomever is the direct object of the compound verb may invite.
The candidate who wins the popular vote is not always elected. The relative pronoun who is the subject of the verb wins and introduces the subordinate clause who wins the popular vote. This subordinate clause acts as an adjective modifying the noun candidate.
In a crisis, the manager asks the employees whom she believes to be the most efficient to arrive an hour early. The relative pronoun whom is the direct object of the verb believes and introduces the subordinate clause whom she believes to be the most efficient. This subordinate clause modifies the noun employees.
Whoever broke the window will have to replace it. Here the relative pronoun whoever functions as the subject of the verb broke.
The box, which was left in the corridor, has now been moved into the storage closet. The relative pronoun which acts as the subject of the compound verb was left and introduces the subordinate clause which was left in the corridor. The subordinate clause acts as an adjective modifying the noun box.

Indefinite pronouns

An indefinite pronoun refers to an identifiable but not specified person or thing. It conveys the idea of all, any, none or some.

The most common indefinite pronouns are all, another, any, anybody, anyone, anything, each, everybody, everyone, everything, few, many, nobody, none, one, several, some, somebody and someone. Note that some indefinite pronouns can also act as indefinite adjectives.

The highlighted words in the following examples are indefinite pronouns.

Example Explanation
All were invited to the lunch but only twelve showed up. Here all acts as the subject of the compound verb were invited.
The office had been searched and everything was thrown onto the floor. The indefinite pronoun everything acts as the subject of the compound verb was thrown.
We donated everything we found in the attic to the shelter’s garage sale. The indefinite pronoun everything is the direct object of the verb donated.
Though they looked everywhere for extra copies of the magazine, they found none. Here the indefinite pronoun none functions as a direct object of the verb found.
Make sure you give everyone a copy of the amended bylaws. The indefinite pronoun everyone is the indirect object of the verb give—the direct object is the noun phrase a copy of the amended bylaws.
Give an information kit to each. Here the indefinite pronoun each is the object of the preposition to.

Reflexive pronouns

A reflexive pronoun refers to the subject of the clause or sentence.

The reflexive pronouns are myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves and themselves. Note that each of these can also act as an intensive pronoun.

Each of the highlighted words in the following sentences is a reflexive pronoun:

  • Diabetics give themselves insulin shots several times a day.
  • My manager often does the photocopying herself so that her staff can do more important work.
  • After the party, I asked myself why I had faxed invitations to everyone in my office building.
  • Richard usually sent a copy of his e-mails to himself.
  • Although the landlord promised to paint the apartment, we ended up doing it ourselves.

Intensive pronouns

An intensive pronoun emphasizes its antecedent. These pronouns are identical in form to reflexive pronouns.

The highlighted words in the following sentences are intensive pronouns:

  • I myself believe that aliens should abduct my sister.
  • The premier himself said that he would lower taxes.
  • They themselves promised to come to the party even though they had another engagement.

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