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A pronoun is traditionally a part of speech in grammar, though many modern linguists call it a type of noun. In English, pronouns are words such as me, she, his, them, herself, each other, it, what.
Pronouns are often used to take the place of a noun, when that noun is understood (has already been named), to avoid repeating it. For example, instead of saying
- Tom has a new dog. Tom has named the dog Max and Tom lets the dog sleep by Tom's bed.
it is easier to say
- Tom has a new dog. He has named it Max and he lets it sleep by his bed.
When a pronoun replaces a noun, the noun is called the antecedent. But, there are times when the pronoun has no antecedent. This is because generally, the antecedent (what comes before) refers grammatically to the use of the relative pronoun in particular. For example, in the sentence: The dog that was walking down the street, the relative pronoun is the word that referring back to the antecedent, the word 'dog'. In the sentence The spy who loved me, the relative pronoun is the word 'who' and its antecedent is the word 'spy'.
Differences and similarities to nouns
Pronouns are different from common nouns because they normally can not come after articles or other determiners. (For example, people do not say "the it".) Pronouns also rarely come after adjectives. They are also different because many of them change depending on how they are used. For example, "we" is a 'subject' in grammar, but the word changes to us when used as an object.
Pronouns are the same as nouns because they both change for number (singular & plural), case (subject, object, possessive, etc.), and gender (male, female, animate, inanimate, etc.) Nouns and pronouns can be used in almost all the same places in sentences, and they name the same kinds of things: people, objects, etc. Even though they can not normally come after determiners, or adjectives, neither can proper nouns.
Kinds of pronouns
There are four kinds of pronouns: personal, reciprocal, interrogative, and relative.
|i||personal||you love them||Your sister loves herself|
|ii||reciprocal||we like each other||we are looking at one another|
|iii||interrogative||who is there?||what happened?|
|iv||relative||the person who saw it||the time which you told me|
Personal pronouns in English
This table shows all the personal pronouns in English that are commonly used today.
Another type of personal pronoun is called the 'reflexive pronoun'. Reflexive pronouns are the words ending in '-self' or '-selves', such as: myself, itself, themselves.
- Huddleston R. & Pullum G.K. 2002. The Cambridge Grammar of the English language. Cambridge University Press.