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Types of Pronouns: Personal, Indefinite, Demonstrative, Interrogative, and Relative

Types of Pronouns: Personal, Indefinite, Demonstrative, Interrogative, and Relative

Traditional grammars define pronouns as “small words that take the place of other words, phrases, and clauses.” Pronouns in English more specifically take the place of nouns, noun phrases, and noun clauses as well as some other grammatical forms. English pronouns may be further classified into more specific categories: personal pronouns, indefinite pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, interrogative pronouns, and relative pronouns.

Personal Pronouns

The first type of pronoun in the English language is the personal pronoun. Personal pronouns are pronouns that refer to specific antecedents. The English personal pronoun system includes four types of pronouns: subject pronouns, object pronouns, possessive pronouns, and reflexive pronouns. Personal pronouns express person and number in English. The English personal pronouns are:

  • I, me, mine, myself
  • we, us, ours, ourselves
  • you, yours, yourself, yourselves
  • he, him, his, himself
  • she, her, hers, herself
  • it, it, its, itself
  • they, them, theirs, themselves

For example:

  • I bought him it to give to her.
  • You need to wash the dishes yourself.
  • She finished them for us yesterday.
  • Mine and his are on the table next to yours and hers.

For more information about personal pronouns, see The English Personal Pronoun System.

Indefinite Pronouns

The second type of pronoun in the English language is the indefinite pronoun. Indefinite pronouns are pronouns that refer to unspecified antecedents. Some indefinite pronouns are also referred to as impersonal pronouns. Indefinite pronouns express number in English. The English indefinite pronouns are:

  • singular indefinite -one pronouns
  • singular indefinite -body pronouns
  • singular indefinite -thing pronouns
  • other singular indefinite pronouns
  • plural indefinite pronouns
  • singular/plural indefinite pronouns
  • you, yours, yourself, yourselves
  • they, them, theirs, themselves

For example:

  • Nobody left anything for you.
  • Both are for neither.
  • Somebody called about something last night.
  • They say you should always wash your hands before eating.

For more information about indefinite pronouns, see The English Indefinite Pronoun System.

Demonstrative Pronouns

The third type of pronoun in the English language is the demonstrative pronoun. Demonstrative pronouns are pronouns of literal and figurative distance that provide additional information about the proximity of the word, phrase, or clause replaced by the pronoun. Demonstratives pronouns express number and deixis in English. The English demonstrative pronouns are:

  • this
  • that
  • these
  • those

For example:

  • This is more important than that.
  • Give me those.
  • These give me a tummy ache.
  • We talked about this and that yesterday.

For more information about demonstrative pronouns, see The English Demonstrative Pronoun System.

Interrogative Pronouns

The fourth type of pronoun in the English language is the interrogative pronoun. Interrogative pronouns are pronouns used to ask questions. Some interrogative pronouns are technically interrogative adverbs. Interrogative pronouns express number in English. The English interrogative pronouns are:

  • who
  • whom
  • what
  • which
  • whose
  • how (interrogative adverb)
  • why (interrogative adverb)
  • where (interrogative adverb)
  • whoever
  • whomever
  • whatever
  • whichever
  • whosever

For example:

  • Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?
  • Which did you give to whom?
  • You are vacationing where?
  • Whatever do you mean?

For more information about interrogative pronouns, see The English Interrogative Pronoun System.

Relative Pronouns

The fifth type of pronoun in the English language is the relative pronoun. Relative pronouns are a type of subordinating conjunction that introduce adjective, or relative, clauses. Some relative pronouns are technically relative adverbs. Relative pronouns express number in English. The English relative pronouns are:

  • who
  • whom
  • that
  • which
  • Ø (null relative pronoun)
  • whose
  • when (relative adverb)
  • where (relative adverb)
  • why (relative adverb)

For example:

  • The man who brought the cake is my brother.
  • The painting, which you vehemently hate, just sold for millions.
  • I am not a fan of the cookies that you baked.
  • Tell me the reason why you are late.

For more information about relative pronouns, see The English Relative Pronoun System.

Pronouns are words that take the place of nouns, noun phrases, noun clauses, and other grammatical forms. The five types of pronouns in the English language are personal pronouns, indefinite pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, interrogative pronouns, and relative pronouns.

Summary

Notionally described as “small words that take the place of other words, phrases, and clauses,” pronouns more specifically take the place of nouns, noun phrases, and noun clauses as well as some other grammatical forms.

English pronouns may be further classified into more specific categories: personal pronouns, indefinite pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, interrogative pronouns, and relative pronouns.

References

Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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