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Pronoun its Definition, Types, Function, Characteristics and Examples

This article contains pronoun its definition, types, function, characteristics, place of pronoun in sentence, cases, gender, number and persons with comprehensive details.

Why Pronouns are important?

Pronouns are an important word group in every language, generally they avoid repetition of a noun, group of nouns or noun phrase and are used to refer formerly occuring nouns in a sentence, paragraph or piece of composition. Pronouns are as important as the absence of pronouns in a language can create serious threats to a language. They make a work of composition economical, smart, compact, concise and readable as repetition of nouns can render it cumbersome and beauty of language will die. Pronouns make the sense of a sentence clear, dexterous, smooth and polished.

Sentences without Pronouns
  • James searched James’s books yesterday.
  • The seals were playing with the seals on the sandy beach.
  • The clothes in the laundary belong to Peter, so they are Peter’s clothes.
  • Quaid-e-Azam was founder of Pakistan. Quaid-e-Azam went to England for higher education.
Sentences with Pronouns
  • James searched his books yesterday.
  • The seals were playing with themselves on the sandy beach.
  • The clothes in the laundary belong to Peter, so they are his clothes.
  • Quaid-e-Azam was founder of Pakistan. He went to England for higher education.

Generally, same rules apply to nouns and pronouns. A singular pronoun replaces a singular noun for example Jack will be replaced with he\his\him; a plural noun, like “girls,” replaces a plural pronoun, such as they\their\ them.

Definition of Pronoun

A pronoun replaces a noun, a group of nouns or a noun phrase (antecedent) which is used earlier in the same sentence, paragraph or composition. In this way a pronoun saves us from repeating a noun again and over again.

  • James is a doctor. He lives near Orchard Park Street.     Here in the second sentence 'He' is replacing James of the first sentence so He is a pronoun.
  • Cole and Sarah are classmates. They are great friends.     Here in the second sentence 'They' is replacing a group of nouns (Cole and Sarah) of the first sentence so They is a pronoun.
  • The little boy is so sweet. I gave him a candy.     Here in the second sentence 'him' is replacing a noun phrase (The little boy) of the first sentence so 'him' is a pronoun.

Functions, characteristics or Place of a Pronoun in a Sentence

A pronoun can perform all the functions of a noun. It means 'for a noun'. A pronoun can be placed at the position of or perform a function of

  • Subject
  • Direct object
  • Indirect object
  • Complement of a subject
  • Complement of an object
  • An object of a preposition
  • An appositive

Along with all these functions a pronoun has four characteristics

  • Case (Subjective case, Possessive case, Objective case etc)
  • Persons (1st Person, 2nd Person, 3rd Person)
  • Gender (Masculine, Feminine, Neuter, Common etc)
  • Number (Singular, Plural)

What is Antecedent

Antecedent is a noun, group of nouns, noun phrase or clause used earlier in a sentence which is replaced by a pronoun. Dictionary meaning of antecedent is 'any thing that comes before another thing'. In the following examples antecedent is in bold and pronoun is italicized

  • James is a doctor. He lives near Orchard Park Street
  • Cole and Sarah are classmates. They are great friends.
  • The little boy is so sweet. I gave him a candy.

Types of Pronoun

Different Commonly known kinds of pronoun are

  • Personal Pronouns
  • Indefinite Pronouns
  • Demonstrative Pronouns
  • Relative Pronouns
  • Reflexive or Emphatic Pronouns
  • Interogative Pronouns
  • Possessive Pronouns
  • Distributive Pronouns
  • Reciprocal Pronouns
  • Intensive Pronouns

Personal Pronoun

Most commonly and frequently used pronouns are personal pronouns. Personal pronouns refer to the grammatical person (1st, 2nd, 3rd person), number (singular, plural), case (subjective, objective etc) and gender (feminine, masculine) of a particular noun i.e person, group of persons, place, thing etc. Mostly people consider personal pronouns as the referrent of common people but they are not limited to people and can refer to animals and objects (by using pronoun it). Personal Pronouns can assume different forms depending on the function they are going to perform in a sentence like

  • Case
  • Persons
  • Gender
  • Number


He, my, you, mine, yours etc

Indefinite Pronoun

Indefinite pronoun is a pronoun which shows unspecific person, place or thing which is being referred to. It points to an undetermined number, grammatical person and gender of a person, place or thing like nobody, everyone, someone, all, nowhere, somewhere, everywhere, everything, something, none etc. For example ALL is an indefinite pronoun which is referring to or being used in the place of a group of poeple but we don't know about exact number (ten, twenty etc), exact person (1st, 2nd, 3rd person), or exact gender (masculine, feminine) of this group of people. Same is the case with place and thing. They can be both singular and plural.


Anyone, all, everybody, nowhere, something, several etc

Demonstrative Pronoun

Demonstrative Pronouns point to some distinguished person, thing, activity or situation etc among others within one's sight. This, that, these, those etc are demonstrative pronouns. They are used to point, spot or locate persons or things which are in the sight of a human being. In other words the things which are being pointed or spotted must be present and one can see them. This is used when the spotted things are near. These is plural form of this. That is used when the spotted things are far. Those is plural form of that. Both this and that are pronouns and possessive adjectives and they are also used for both living and non-living things.


This, that, these, those, such etc

Relative Pronoun

Relative pronoun is a pronoun that connects a dependent or relative clause which modifies or describes a noun (person, place, thing, idea, animal etc) previously mentioned. Relative clause mostly starts with relative pronoun and sometimes like a conjunction can join two clauses. Relative clauses are also referred to as adjective clauses because they modify the subject of independent clause they are relating. Relative pronoun points to a noun or pronoun comes before it i.e antecedent and takes number (singular, plural) and grammatical person (1st, 2nd or 3rd person) according to that antecedent.


Who, whom, which, whose, that etc

Reflexive Pronoun

Reflexive pronoun turns the action of a verb back to the doer (subject). They are often used as direct objects and reflect back upon sentence's subject. They are formed by adding self at the end of singular personal pronouns and selves at the end of plural personal pronouns. Self or selves is added with possessive or objective cases of personal pronouns. Reflexive pronouns are usually not used with the verbs which have objects and if a verb does not have an object then they are used according to the subject of the sentence. In other words subject and object of the sentence are same.


Himself, itself, ourselves etc

Interrogative Pronoun

Interrogative pronouns are used to ask questions. Words like why, where, when, what, which are some interogative pronouns. Some of these pronouns are also used as Relative Pronouns where they refer to a previously occurred noun or pronoun but in interrogative pronoun they ask question. They are not type of yes-no questions means to say one has to utter a full sentence to answer them only a single word like yes or no can not answer them.


Who, whom, which, what, whose etc

Possessive Pronoun

Possessive pronouns show a strong possession over some noun. Possessive pronouns must take a noun over which they show possession without a noun they can not work. For example 'My mother cooks food.' it makes sense but 'My cooks food' does not make sense that's why pronoun my must take a noun like mother. If they are used without a noun then they are called Absolute Possessive pronoun like mine, yours, hers etc. For example 'This pen is mine.'. Possessive pronouns can never be used with apotrophes like "Your's obediently" it must be 'Yours obediently'.


Him, my, mine, our, ours, their etc

Distributive Pronoun

Distributive pronouns take a group or class of persons and things but refer to one element of that group at a time separately rather than collectively. Distributive pronouns include each, every, either, any etc and are considered an important part of grammar. One property of distributive pronoun is they are singular and take singular verbs. Sometimes they are called Distributive Adjectives when they modify a noun. For example 'Each boy was attending the class.' here each is modifying a noun 'boy' so here it is used as a distributive adjective.


Each, every, either, neither, none etc

Reciprocal Pronoun

Reciprocal pronouns help two subjects to return same action they are carrying or have carried out. In other words reciprocal pronouns are used when two subjects act in the same way towards each other. There are only two reciprocal pronouns Each other and One another. Each other is used for two persons or things and one another is used for three or more than three persons or things. They avoid repetition of nouns within one sentence and make the sentence compact and smart. Reciprocal pronouns are at a little difference with Reflexive pronouns as latter also reflect action of the verb on subject.


Each other, one another

Emphatic or Intensive Pronoun

Intensive Pronouns are also known as Emphatic Pronouns they are used to create emphasis to the subject or antecedent of the sentence. As an emphatic pronoun they are mostly placed right after the subject and rarely at the end of the sentence. Intensive pronouns are not necessary to the meaning of sentence they just add some extra flavor to it. In other words a sentence can stand alone without intensive pronouns.


Myself, itself, himself etc

The Pronoun: Cases
table of pronouns

table of pronouns

Cases of a pronoun show its relationship with other words, its place and functions in a sentence. There are three pronoun cases which show how a pronoun relates to the other words in a sentence. They are

  • Nominative or Subjective case
  • Accusative or Objective case
  • Possessive case

The Pronoun: Gender

Gender of a pronoun tells us about sex group of a pronoun. There are only two personal pronouns He and She which have masculine and feminine gender rest of the personal pronouns are gender-neutral.

The Pronoun: Number

Number of a pronoun tells us about count, figure or quantity. The number of pronoun has two groups. They are

  • Singular
  • Plural

The Pronoun: Persons

There are three persons of personal pronouns i.e 1st person, 2nd person and 3rd person. 1st person point of view talks about the speaker, 2nd person point of view addresses someone and 3rd person point of view talks about someone who is not present during the conversation. They are

  • 1st person:     I, We
  • 2nd person:   You
  • 3rd person:   He, She, It, They, singular and plural names