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The English Personal Pronoun System

The English Personal Pronoun System

Pronouns are small words that can take the place of nouns and noun phrases. Personal pronouns are pronouns that take the place of common and proper nouns. The English personal pronoun system includes four types of pronouns: subject pronouns, object pronouns, possessive pronouns, and reflexive pronouns. Pronouns in English can perform six different grammatical functions depending on the type of pronouns: subject, subject complement, direct object, indirect object, prepositional complement, and appositive.

Subject Pronouns

The English subject pronouns perform two functions in sentences: subject and subject complement. The subject pronouns in English are:

  • I (first person singular)
  • you (second person singular)
  • he (third person singular masculine)
  • she (third person singular feminine)
  • it (third person singular neuter)
  • we (first person plural)
  • you (second person plural)
  • they (third person plural)

For example:

  • I am a librarian. (subject)
  • He wrote the book. (subject)
  • My aunt is she. (subject complement)
  • The tourists are they. (subject complement)

Object Pronouns

The English object pronouns perform three traditional functions: direct object, indirect object, and prepositional complement. The object pronouns in English are:

  • me (first person singular)
  • you (second person singular)
  • him (third person singular masculine)
  • her (third person singular feminine)
  • it (third person singular neuter)
  • us (first person plural)
  • you (second person plural)
  • them (third person plural)

For example:

  • My puppy licked you. (direct object)
  • The man bought her chocolate. (indirect object)
  • Six packages arrived for us. (prepositional complement)

The English object pronouns also function as the subject complement in all but the most formal settings. For example:

  • The guest speaker is me. (subject complement)
  • The winners are us. (subject complement)

Possessive Pronouns

The English possessive pronouns perform five functions: subject, subject complement, direct object, indirect object, and prepositional complement. The possessive pronouns in English are:

  • mine (first person singular)
  • yours (second person singular)
  • his (third person singular masculine)
  • hers (third person singular feminine)
  • its (third person singular neuter)*
  • ours (first person plural)
  • yours (second person plural)
  • theirs (third person plural)

For example:

  • Mine is the calico cat. (subject)
  • The middle desk is yours. (subject complement)
  • Our neighbor bought his. (direct object)
  • We bought ours healthy snacks. (indirect object)
  • He can sit at theirs. (prepositional complement)

Do not confuse possessive pronouns with possessive determiners. The possessive determiners in English are my, your, his, her, its, our, their, and whose. Possessive determiners are determiners. Determiners provide information such as familiarity, location, quantity, and number. Determiners perform the grammatical function of determinative.

*The third person singular neuter possessive pronoun its is rarely used in standard written English.

Reflexive Pronouns

The English reflexive pronouns perform three functions: direct object, indirect object, and prepositional complement. The reflexive pronouns in English are:

  • myself (first person singular)
  • yourself (second person singular)
  • himself (third person singular masculine)
  • herself (third person singular feminine)
  • itself (third person singular neuter)
  • ourselves (first person plural)
  • yourselves (second person plural)
  • themselves (third person plural)

For example:

  • I embarrassed myself at the party. (direct object)
  • She wrote herself a note. (indirect object)
  • He chuckled at himself. (prepositional complement)

Using Personal Pronouns as Appositives

Personal pronouns may sometimes, although rarely, function as appositives. Subject, object, and possessive, and reflexive pronouns may perform the grammatical function of appositive. For example:

  • That man, he, stole my wallet. (subject pronoun)
  • Those children, him and her, are mine. (object pronouns)
  • A man brought a package for the team leader, you. (object pronoun)
  • The winners are these two cakes, hers and his. (possessive pronouns)
  • You, yourself, must accept the challenge. (reflexive pronoun)

Personal pronouns are pronouns that take the place of common and proper nouns. Personal pronouns perform six functions in English grammar.

Summary

Personal pronouns in English grammar are words that take the place of common and proper nouns. The antecedents of personal pronouns are previously identified proper and common nouns.

Personal pronoun is a grammatical form.

Personal pronoun is a subcategory of pronoun, which is a subcategory of noun.

Personal pronouns function as the heads of pronoun phrases or noun phrases. The six grammatical functions performed by personal pronouns are subject, subject complement, direct object, indirect object, prepositional complement, and appositive.

The four types of personal pronouns are subject pronouns, object pronouns, possessive pronouns, and reflexive pronouns.

References

Hopper, Paul J. A Short Course in Grammar. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 1999.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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