Pronouns are words that take the place of nouns. Pronouns are used to avoid sounding strange and redundant by repeating the same nouns over and over again. The noun that a pronoun replaces is called the pronoun’s antecedent.
To get an idea of how pronouns work and how important they really are, consider how some sentences might sound both with and without pronouns:
Samantha thought Samantha would like to bring her laptop in case Samantha got bored.
Without pronouns, we have to write Samantha’s name three before we even get through one sentence.
Samantha thought she would like to bring her laptop in case she got bored.
When we use pronouns, we only need to mention Samantha’s name once to establish a clear antecedent. Once everyone knows who we are talking about, we can refer to Samantha with pronouns instead.
For an even more annoying demonstration of the importance of pronouns, consider how many times you would have to refer to yourself by your own name in the third person every day if you could not use the pronouns I and me!
Types of Pronouns
The pronouns we looked at above were all examples of personal pronouns, but there are many other types of pronouns. Pronouns are grouped according to their different functions, and some pronouns may fit into more than one group depending on how they are being used in a sentence.
- Demonstrative pronouns identify particular people or things. Demonstrative pronouns also indicate whether the specific people or things being referred to are singular or plural and whether they are close to or far from the speaker.
- Expletive pronouns are pronouns that have no antecedents to replace and have no grammatical function but are still necessary to the structure of many common phrases and expressions.
- Indefinite pronouns refer to unspecified people or things. Indefinite pronouns are intentionally vague and do not have antecedents.
- Intensive pronouns are used to emphasize the subject as the doer of the action in a sentence. Be careful not to get them mixed up with reflexive pronouns!
- Interrogative pronouns, as their name implies, are pronouns used to form questions.
- Personal pronouns are probably the most well-known type of pronouns. As their name suggests, personal pronouns are primarily used to refer to people, although they are also used to refer to animals and things. Personal pronouns can get a bit confusing at times even for native English speakers because they must be correctly inflected according to gender, number, and person.
- Reciprocal pronouns are used to show that two or more people are acting as the subject or object of a verb and mutually receiving or benefiting from the action.
- Reflexive pronouns are used to indicate that the subject of a verb is also the object. Reflexive pronouns and intensive pronouns consist of the same group of words, but they differ in function.
- Relative pronouns are pronouns used to link (or “relate”) relative clauses to the main clause of a sentence. Relative pronouns are also part of more than one group of pronouns and must be carefully identified according to their function.