English Pronouns Explained: Types, Uses, and Examples

Understanding pronouns and how to use them can significantly improve learners’ English language proficiency by enabling them to communicate in a clearer and more efficient way. But what are pronouns, and what are some examples?

In this guide to pronouns, we will explain what pronouns are, the different kinds of pronouns, and provide you with lots of examples to help you learn or teach these important English words.

What Is A Pronoun?

A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun or a noun phrase in a sentence. Pronouns are used to avoid repetition and make sentences easier to understand and more concise. They can refer to people, places, things, or ideas that have already been mentioned or are commonly understood.

The Different Types Of Pronouns

Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns are words used to replace specific people or things in a sentence and refer to persons speaking (first person), being spoken to (second person), or being spoken about (third person).

Personal pronouns are used to avoid repeating the names of people or objects and to help make sentences simpler and clearer.

Personal pronouns change their form to indicate number (singular or plural), gender, and case (subjective, objective, or possessive). Here are the different types of personal pronouns with examples:

  1. Subjective Personal Pronouns: Used as the subject of the sentence. They perform the action in the sentence.
    • Singular: I, you, he, she, it
    • Plural: we, you, they
    • Example: “She is going to the store.” (Here, “she” is the subject who is going to the store.)
  2. Objective Personal Pronouns: Used as the object of the sentence. They receive the action in the sentence.
    • Singular: me, you, him, her, it
    • Plural: us, you, them
    • Example: “The teacher called me.” (Here, “me” is the object receiving the action of being called.)
  3. Possessive Personal Pronouns: Used to show ownership or possession. Unlike possessive adjectives, they stand alone and do not modify a noun.
    • Singular: mine, yours, his, hers, its
    • Plural: ours, yours, theirs
    • Example: “The book is mine.” (Here, “mine” indicates ownership of the book.)

Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are used when the subject and the object of a sentence are the same person or thing. In other words, the action of the verb refers back to the doer. Reflexive pronouns are formed by adding “-self” or “-selves” to certain personal and possessive pronouns.

Reflexive pronouns are commonly used to emphasize the subject or to indicate that the subject performed the action alone without anyone else’s help. Here are the reflexive pronouns with examples:

  1. Singular Reflexive Pronouns:
    • Myself: “I did the homework myself.” (Here, “myself” emphasizes that I did it alone.)
    • Yourself: “You should treat yourself to a day off.” (Here, “yourself” indicates the action is directed back at “you.”)
    • Himself: “He cooked dinner himself.” (Here, “himself” emphasizes that he did it alone.)
    • Herself: “She taught herself to play the piano.” (Here, “herself” indicates she learned alone, without help.)
    • Itself: “The cat licked itself.” (Here, “itself” indicates the cat is cleaning itself.)
  2. Plural Reflexive Pronouns:
    • Ourselves: “We made the decision ourselves.” (Here, “ourselves” emphasizes that we did it as a group without outside influence.)
    • Yourselves: “You all need to prepare yourselves for the exam.” (Here, “yourselves” is directed back at “you” plural.)
    • Themselves: “They built the house themselves.” (Here, “themselves” emphasizes that they did it on their own.)

Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns are used to point to specific things and indicate their relative distance (near or far) from the speaker. They are particularly useful in identifying and distinguishing particular items or people. Demonstrative pronouns replace the noun (or noun phrase) that’s being referred to, so that the noun doesn’t need to be repeated. There are four main demonstrative pronouns in English:

  1. This: Used to refer to a singular noun close to the speaker. For example, “This is delicious.” Here, “this” may refer to a nearby object, such as a piece of cake the speaker is eating.
  2. That: Used to refer to a singular noun farther away from the speaker. For example, “That was a great movie.” Here, “that” refers to a movie that was perhaps just watched, but is now over or physically distant from the speaker.
  3. These: Used to refer to a plural noun close to the speaker. For example, “These are my friends.” Here, “these” refers to a group of friends who are probably standing near the speaker.
  4. Those: Used to refer to a plural noun farther away from the speaker. For example, “Those were the days.” Here, “those” refers to a time in the past or a group of days that are considered far from the current moment in time.

Interrogative Pronouns

Interrogative pronouns are used to ask questions, specifically questions that inquire about people or things. They are designed to elicit information about objects, people, places, times, and amounts. Essentially, they help formulate interrogative sentences, which are questions. The main interrogative pronouns in English are:

  1. Who: Used to ask about people, typically referring to the subject of the question. For example, “Who is coming to the party?” Here, “who” is asking for the identity of a person or people attending the party.
  2. Whom: Also used to ask about people, but typically refers to the object of the question. It is considered more formal and less commonly used in everyday speech. For example, “Whom did you invite?” Here, “whom” is asking about the person who was invited (the object of the invitation).
  3. Whose: Used to inquire about possession or ownership. For example, “Whose book is this?” Here, “whose” is asking to whom the book belongs.
  4. What: Used to ask about things rather than people. For example, “What is your favorite color?” Here, “what” is inquiring about the choice or type of color.
  5. Which: Used to ask about a specific member of a known group or category. For example, “Which day is best for the meeting?” Here, “which” is asking to select a particular day from known options.

Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns are used to link one phrase or clause to another phrase or clause. They introduce relative clauses, which are clauses that provide additional information about a noun or pronoun in the sentence, often referred to as the antecedent. Relative pronouns help in defining or identifying the person or thing being mentioned or adding extra information to the sentence. The main relative pronouns in English are:

  1. Who: Refers to people and acts as the subject of the relative clause. For example, “The woman who called me was very polite.” Here, “who” refers to “the woman” and introduces the clause “who called me.”
  2. Whom: Also refers to people but is used as the object of the relative clause. It is more formal and less commonly used in everyday conversation. For example, “The man to whom you gave the letter is my uncle.” Here, “whom” is the object of “gave the letter.”
  3. Whose: Indicates possession and can refer to both people and things. For example, “That’s the artist whose paintings were stolen.” Here, “whose paintings” tells us which specific artist is being discussed.
  4. Which: Refers to animals and things. It introduces additional information about a non-human antecedent. For example, “The book, which was published last year, is already a bestseller.” Here, “which was published last year” provides extra information about “the book.”
  5. That: Can refer to people, animals, or things and is often used in defining or restrictive relative clauses. For example, “The book that you lent me was fascinating.” Here, “that you lent me” specifies exactly which book is being talked about.

Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns are used to refer to nonspecific people or things. They are called “indefinite” because they do not point to a specific person, place, thing, or idea. Instead, they often refer to a vague or general noun rather than a clear, definite one. Indefinite pronouns are particularly useful in cases where the identity is unknown or irrelevant, and they are very common in everyday language. Here are some of the main indefinite pronouns:

  1. Singular Indefinite Pronouns: Typically refer to one thing or person.
    • Anyone, anybody: “Anyone can join the game.”
    • Someone, somebody: “Someone left their bag here.”
    • No one, nobody: “No one knew the answer.”
    • Each: “Each of the cakes is marked with a number.”
    • Everything: “Everything was covered in snow.”
    • Nothing: “Nothing was left after the party.”
    • Anything: “I would do anything for you.”
    • One: “One should always be honest.”
  2. Plural Indefinite Pronouns: Typically refer to more than one thing or person.
    • Several: “Several of the students have their exams today.”
    • Few: “A few people were aware of the facts.”
    • Many: “Many have tried to solve the mystery.”
  3. Singular or Plural Indefinite Pronouns: The number can vary depending on the context.
    • All: “All is lost.” (Singular) or “All are welcome.” (Plural)
    • Any: “Any of the cake is yours.” (Singular) or “Any are free to speak.” (Plural)
    • None: “None was found.” (Singular) or “None were found.” (Plural)
    • Some: “Some of the food was eaten.” (Singular) or “Some were not happy about the decision.” (Plural)
  4. Other Indefinite Pronouns:
    • Such: “Such is life.”
    • Enough: “Enough is enough.”

Possessive Pronouns

Possessive pronouns are used to indicate ownership or possession. They replace the noun that’s being possessed, thereby avoiding repetition and making sentences clearer and more concise. Unlike possessive adjectives (my, your, his, her, its, our, their), which modify the noun and come before it, possessive pronouns stand alone and typically follow the noun they are replacing. They show who or what something belongs to. Here are the main possessive pronouns in English:

  1. Mine: Belonging to me.
    • Example: “That book is mine.”
  2. Yours: Belonging to you (singular or plural).
    • Example: “Is this pen yours?”
  3. His: Belonging to him.
    • Example: “The final decision is his.”
  4. Hers: Belonging to her.
    • Example: “The red car is hers.”
  5. Its: Belonging to it (used less frequently and typically in specific contexts, as “it” often refers to animals or objects).
    • Example: “The choice was its to make.” (Note: This usage is less common as “its” is more often used as a possessive adjective, e.g., “The cat licked its paws.”)
  6. Ours: Belonging to us.
    • Example: “The house is ours now.”
  7. Yours: Belonging to you all (plural).
    • Example: “This victory is yours.”
  8. Theirs: Belonging to them.
    • Example: “The responsibility is theirs.”

Reciprocal Pronouns

Reciprocal pronouns are used to indicate a mutual or reciprocal action or relationship between two or more people or things. They refer to each member of a group doing something to or for the others. In English, the reciprocal pronouns are quite straightforward, and there are essentially two:

  1. Each other: This pronoun is used when referring to two people or things in a mutual relationship or action.
    • Example: “The two friends hugged each other.” (Here, each friend is hugging the other.)
  2. One another: This pronoun is often used for groups of three or more, but it can be used interchangeably with “each other” in modern usage.
    • Example: “The team members rely on one another.” (Here, it implies all team members rely on each other.)

Intensive Pronouns

Intensive pronouns, also known as emphatic pronouns, are used to add emphasis to a noun or pronoun that has already been mentioned in a sentence. They are formed by adding “-self” or “-selves” to personal pronouns. Intensive pronouns aren’t essential to the meaning of a sentence; they’re used for stressing or intensifying the noun or pronoun that they’re referring back to. Here are the intensive pronouns:

  1. Myself: “I myself don’t believe the story.”
  2. Yourself (singular): “You yourself can verify the facts.”
  3. Himself: “He himself completed all the work.”
  4. Herself: “She herself saw the incident.”
  5. Itself: “The cat itself opened the door.”
  6. Ourselves: “We ourselves are responsible for our actions.”
  7. Yourselves (plural): “You yourselves are the witnesses.”
  8. Themselves: “They themselves admitted their mistake.”

Objective Pronouns

Objective pronouns are pronouns that serve as the object of a verb, preposition, or infinitive phrase in a sentence. They receive the action of the verb or indicate the object of the preposition. Objective pronouns are used to replace the noun that is the object, thereby avoiding repetition and making sentences clearer and more concise. Here are the main objective pronouns in English:

  1. Me: Used when the speaker is the object of the action.
    • Example: “She gave me the book.”
  2. You: Used when the person being spoken to is the object.
    • Example: “I will meet you at noon.”
  3. Him: Used for a male person or male-gendered entity as the object.
    • Example: “Could you tell him the message?”
  4. Her: Used for a female person or female-gendered entity as the object.
    • Example: “The teacher called her.”
  5. It: Used for things, animals, or gender-neutral nouns as the object.
    • Example: “The dog chased it.”
  6. Us: Used when the speaker and others are the objects.
    • Example: “They invited us to the party.”
  7. Them: Used for plural entities as the object.
    • Example: “Please give them the instructions.”

Pronoun Teaching Resources