What are pronouns?
Pronouns are groups of words that appear in place of other words; they usually replace nouns, different pronouns, and noun phrases. They are a way to avoid being repetitive; for example, “Kelly likes to cook, and she often cooks a roast chicken.” In this sentence, “she” is a pronoun used instead of repeating the name Kelly.
Types of pronouns
- to refer to people or things
- when talking about people or things as they relate to him or herself
- a way to refer to him or herself
The two types of personal pronouns are:
Subjective personal (I, we, you, he, she, it, they)
Used to refer to a subject complement (verb) or subject of a clause, these
For example, “She was there.”
Objective personal (me, us, you, him, her, it, them)
Used to refer to the same people or things as the equivalent subject pronouns (Collins 1990:29).
For example “We cannot make it without him”
These are used when the subject of a verb is the same as the object of a verb. The subject can be a person or a thing.
The two forms of reflexive pronouns in the second person are yourself and yourselves.
She could not help but make a fool out of herself.
Most days I have to force myself to go to the gym.
These connect people or things with other people or things. Something or someone is connected, associated, or belongs to something or someone.
This is my house. Your car is better than my car. She is his daughter.
Indefinite pronouns (anybody, anything, anyone, everybody, everyone, everything, nobody, no one, nothing, somebody, someone, and something)
These are when you refer to people or things, but you do not know who or what, or their identity is not essential; they do not apply to a specific person or thing.
Example: “What is everybody doing here?”
These can be used as subjects of the objects in a clause, or the object of a preposition; they usually refer to things but can relate to people.
Example: “This is a good book.”
Reciprocal pronouns are used to suggest that people have the same feeling, do the same thing, or have the same relationship; they are used as indirect objects of verbs.
They suggest that people feel the same way, do the same thing, or have the same relationship.
Example: They cannot stand each other, and they are moving away from one another.
Used by the speaker when a sentence includes a clause and then a relative clause; they refer to someone or something that has already been mentioned; they are conjunctions because they join two clauses together.
Who and whom refer to people: “Guess who I met yesterday?”
That refers to either people or things:
I often like news that gives me a positive feeling.
The girl that likes me is Helen, not Mary.
Which always refers to things:
The park which has the biggest playground in Auckland is Western Spring.
These can be used as objects or subjects of a clause; they refer to information about which someone is asking.
What is he doing?
Whose painting is that?
How the choice of pronouns shows the relationship between people
The choice of pronouns is affected by the relationship between the speaker and the listener. Addressing someone with the same status shows solidarity and equality. Formal pronouns are used addressing someone of a higher status.
In political speeches, there is a clear separation between them and us. “Us” or “We” are used for identifying the good qualities of the speaker and their constituents. “Them” or “they” is used to refer to the negative qualities of the opposition.
The choice of personal pronouns:
- shows a personal level;
- the speaker shows authority and personal responsibility;
- the speaker shows commitment and involvement.
The choice of second-person pronouns (“you,” “your,” “you’ve,” “you’re”),
- Positively affects the consumer’s attitude towards to brand.
- Second person pronouns implicate and involve the consumer, for example, (“Are you paying too much for your gas?”).
- If the brand is considered relevant, the consumer is likely to buy and promote the product.
- Second-person pronouns have been found to direct attention inward toward the person reading the message.
Mixing up first-person, second-person and third-person pronouns
Both ‘I’ and ‘you’ are personal pronouns, but using ‘I’ makes the sentence ‘first-person’; these are good for connecting with people. The second person pronouns ‘you, your, etc’ are good for connecting people with a brand, product or idea. The mistake people make is mixing these in the same sentence or paragraph.
Pronouns are used in the place of nouns; they help to avoid repeating nouns in sentences. The choice of pronouns can reflect the relationship between the speaker and the audience. The choice of first-person personal pronouns (“I,” “we,” “us”) helps create a connection with the audience. Second-person pronouns (“you,” “your”) are often used in advertising and marketing to sell products or ideas.
Grammarly is an essential writing tool for English learners and professionals.
I recommend the book Practical English Usage by Michael Swan as an essential reference for proper language usage.