English in Use/Pronouns

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English in Use
General ContentsIntroduction
Parts of speech ArticlesNounsVerbsGerunds and participlesPronounsAdjectivesAdverbsPrepositions, Conjunctions and Interjections
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A pronoun is a word used instead of a noun: as,

  • "The boy loves his book; he has long lessons, and he learns them well."

Pronouns are not a requirement of a sentence, and it is possible for them to never to be used in sentences. However, many sentences become unwieldy without them:

  • "Alistair is doing what Alistair thinks is best according to Alistair's rights as a human being."
  • Better, "Alistair is doing what he thinks is best according to his rights as a human being."

The pronouns in English language are twenty-four; and their variations are thirty-two: so that the number of words of this class, is fifty-six.

Pronouns are divided into three classes; personal, relative, and interrogative.

Pronouns also change depending on whether they refer to one person or thing (singular) or a group of people or things (plural).

Personal pronouns[edit]

A personal pronoun or personal is a pronoun that shows, by its form, of what person it is: as,

  • "Whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so you believed."—1 Cor., xv, 11.

The simple personal pronouns are five: namely, I, of the first person; you, of the second person; he, she, and it, of the third person.

The compound personal pronouns are also five: namely, myself, of the first person; yourself, of the second person; himself, herself, and itself, of the third person.

First person pronouns are used when referring to oneself:

  • "I think I am not silly."

Second person pronouns are used to refer to someone who you are conversing with, the person the sentence is intended to be heard by:

  • "You are not very silly."

Third person pronouns are used when referring to something else that is outside the conversation, either some other person, or an object not capable of understanding or communicating:

  • "I don't like the tree because it is ugly."
  • "I don't like the RIAA because they sued me."

Third person singular pronouns are the only pronouns marked for gender. If gender is unknown, use he or she or use a plural.

Relative pronouns[edit]

A relative pronoun or relative is a pronoun that represents an antecedent word or phrase, and connects different clauses of a sentence: as,

  • "No people can be great, who have ceased to be virtuous."—Dr. Johnson.

The relative pronouns are who, which, what, that, as, and the compounds whoever or whosoever, whichever or whichsoever, whatever or whatsoever.

What is a kind of double relative, equivalent to "that which" or "those which"; and is to be parsed first as antecedent, and then as relative: as,

  • "This is what I wanted; that is to say, the thing which I wanted."—L. Murray. III.

Interrogative pronouns[edit]

An interrogative pronoun or interrogative is a pronoun with which a question is asked: as,

  • "Who touched my clothes?"—Mark, v, 30.

The interrogative pronouns are who, which, and what; being the same in form as relatives.

Who demands a person's name; which, that a person or thing be distinguished from others; what, the name of a thing, or a person's occupation and character.

Pronouns have the same modifications as nouns; namely, persons, numbers, genders, and cases. Definitions universally applicable have already been given of all these things; it is therefore unnecessary to define them again in this place.

The declension of a pronoun is a regular arrangement of its numbers and cases.

Simple personals[edit]

The simple personal pronouns are thus declined:

I, of the first person, any of the genders.

Sing. Nom.  I,             Plur. Nom.  we,
      Poss. my, or mine,         Poss. our, or ours,
      Obj.  me;                  Obj.  us.

Plur. Nom.  you,
      Poss. your, or yours,
      Obj.  you.

He, of the third person, masculine gender.

Sing. Nom.  he,            Plur. Nom.  they,
      Poss. his,                 Poss. their, or theirs,
      Obj.  him;                 Obj.  them.

She, of the third person, feminine gender.

Sing. Nom.  she,           Plur. Nom.  they,
      Poss. her, or hers,        Poss. their, or theirs,
      Obj.  her;                 Obj.  them.

It, of the third person, neuter gender.

Sing. Nom,  it,            Plur. Nom.  they,
      Poss. its,                 Poss. their, or theirs,
      Obj.  it;                  Obj.  them.

Compound personals[edit]

The word self, added to the simple personal pronouns, forms the class of compound personal pronouns; which are used when an action reverts upon the agent, and also when some persons are to be distinguished from others. They all want the possessive case, and are alike in the nominative and objective. Thus:

Myself, of the first person, any of the genders

Sing. Nom.  myself,   Plur. Nom.  ourselves
      Poss. ------,         Poss. ---------,
      Obj.  myself;         Obj.  ourselves.

Yourself, of the second person, any of the genders.

Sing. Nom.  yourself,
      Poss. --------,
      Obj.  yourself.

Plur. Nom.  yourselves,
      Poss. ----------,
      Obj.  yourselves.

Himself, of the third person, masculine gender.

Sing. Nom.  himself,  Plur. Nom.  themselves,
      Poss. -------,        Poss. ----------,
      Obj.  himself;        Obj.  themselves.

Herself, of the third person, feminine gender.

Sing. Nom.  herself   Plur. Nom.  themselves,
      Poss. -------,        Poss. ----------,
      Obj.  herself;        Obj.  themselves.

Itself, of the third person, neuter gender.

Sing. Nom.  itself,   Plur. Nom.  themselves,
      Poss. ------,         Poss. ----------,
      Obj.  itself;         Obj.  themselves.

Relatives and interrogatives[edit]

The relative and the interrogative pronouns are thus declined:

Who, literally applied to persons only.

Sing. Nom.  who,      Plur. Nom.  who,
      Poss. whose,          Poss. whose,
      Obj.  whom;           Obj.  whom.

Which, applied to animals and things.

Sing. Nom.  which,    Plur. Nom.  which,
      Poss. ----,           Poss. -----,
      Obj.  which;          Obj.  which.

What, applied ordinarily to things only.

Sing. Nom.  what,     Plur. Nom.  what,
      Poss. ----,           Poss. ----,
      Obj.  what;           Obj.  what.

That, applied to persons, animals, and things.

Sing. Nom.  that,     Plur. Nom.  that,
      Poss. ----,           Poss. ----,
      Obj.  that;           Obj.  that.

As, applied to persons, animals, and things.

Sing. Nom.     as,    Plur. Nom.  as,
      Poss.    ----,        Poss. ----,
      Obj.     as;          Obj.  as.

Compound relatives[edit]

The compound relative pronouns, whoever or whosoever, whichever or whichsoever, and whatever or whatsoever are declined in the same manner as the simples. Thus:

Whoever or whosoever, applied only to persons.

Sing. Nom.  whoever,     Plur. Nom.  whoever,
      Poss. whosever,          Poss. whosever,
      Obj.  whomever;          Obj.  whomever.

Sing. Nom.  whosoever,   Plur. Nom.  whosoever,
      Poss. whosesoever,       Poss. whosesoever,
      Obj.  whomsoever;        Obj.  whomsoever.

Whichever or whichsoever, applied to persons,
animals, and things.

Sing. Nom.  whichever,   Plur. Nom.  whichever,
      Poss. ---------,         Poss. --------,
      Obj.  whichever;         Obj.  whichever.

Sing. Nom.  whichsoever, Plur. Nom.  whichsoever,
      Poss. ---------,         Poss. --------,
      Obj.  whichsoever;       Obj.  whichsoever.

Whatever or whatsoever, applied ordinarily to things only.

Sing. Nom.  whatever,    Plur. Nom.  whatever,
      Poss. --------,          Poss. --------,
      Obj.  whatever;          Obj.  whatever.

Sing. Nom.  whatsoever,  Plur. Nom.  whatsoever,
      Poss. ---------,         Poss. --------,
      Obj.  whatsoever;        Obj.  whatsoever.

Unclear Usage of Pronouns[edit]

Although helpful to eliminate repetitiveness of nouns, pronouns, when used too much, can make a sentence extremely vague: as,

  • "Pictures on walls make it look pretty."

The reader does not know what it is.

  • "The teachers prepared the food. The students ate it. They had fun."

The reader does not know who they are.


The pronoun y'all is a contraction of "You all". It is traditionally used in the south of the United States, where in the north you all is more common. Y'all follows the same conjugation rules as they. Very often it is incorrectly spelled ya'll.

A short syntax[edit]

A pronoun must agree with its antecedent, as "This is the book; it is excellent," except the following cases: something indefinite, as "Tell me who it was," a neuter pronoun, as "I cannot view it," the pronoun it, as "It is not for kings," the adjective many, as "Many a great genius, they have no friends," enallage, as "We shall close our remarks," another sense, as "Lamps is of the plural number," nominatives, as "Who are you?", absolute nominatives, as "It need not be any wonder," possessives, as "Him whose yoke is easy," objectives, as "Those whom she persuaded," neuter verbs, as "Whom did you suppose me to be?", familiar language, as "The man [whom] I trust," omission of the relative, as "The worst thing [that] could happen," a collective noun, as "The council were divided," the conjunction or, as "James or John will favour us with his company," the conjunction and, as "Saul and Jonathan were pleasant in their lives," one person or thing, as "This great philosopher and statesman," empathy, as "The good man, and the sinner too, shall have his reward," and each, every, or no, as "Every plant and every tree produces others after its kind."


See also[edit]