How Pronouns Work
A pronoun (I, me, it, she, he, you, they, that, those, etc.) takes the place of a noun, which is then referred to as the antecedent. Pronouns can take the place of people, places, ideas, or things. For example:
- If you borrow a book from the library, remember to return it by the due date.
In this sentence, it (pronoun) takes the place of book (antecedent).
- Mrs. Jones greeted her students as they entered the classroom.
In this sentence, they (pronoun) takes the place of students (antecedent).
- I am protesting policies that endanger all animals, not just those targeting a few species.
In this sentence, those (pronoun) takes the place of policies (antecedent).
There are a number of different pronoun types. Two of the most common are personal pronouns and indefinite pronouns.
Personal pronouns stand in for a specific person, animal, place, or thing. They change form depending on how they are used in a sentence. Here are four main ways pronouns are used:
By number: singular nouns (I, me my, mine, you, your, yours, he, him, his, she, her, hers, it, its) and plural nouns (we, us, our, ours, you, your,
yours, they, them, their, theirs).
- Singular noun - Mary opened the front door with her key card.
- Plural noun - The tigers roam listlessly in their cage.
By person: first-person, second-person, and third-person. Use first-person when referring to yourself. Use second-person when
speaking to another person directly. Use third-person for everyone else.
- First-person - The students in my class are well-behaved.
- Second-person - Don't forget to take your trash out on Tuesday nights.
- Third-person - She runs three miles a day.
By gender: male, female, and neutral. Remember that only third-person pronouns have gender (as shown here).
- Male - The singer sang his greatest hits at the concert.
- Female - Diana promised to donate her time and money to help the needy.
- Neutral - The Smiths came together for their annual family reunion.
By case: subjective (I, we, you, he, she, it, they), objective (me, us, you, him, her, it, them), and possessive (my, mine, your, yours, his, her, hers, its, their, theirs).
Subjective pronouns serve as the subject of a sentence.
- She plans to attend the community event this afternoon.
- This morning, we had a healthy breakfast of fruit and oatmeal at the local diner.
Objective pronouns serve as the object of a preposition or verb.
- The store owner gave me a coupon for eggs.
- Please forward this email to them.
Possessive pronouns serve as possessive adjectives.
- The florist opened her flower shop early on Valentine's Day.
- I forgot to pick up my package from the post office
Indefinite pronouns don't stand in for specific nouns. There are three types:
Singular: each, anyone, anybody, anything, everyone, everybody, everything, nobody, no one, nothing, someone, somebody, something
- Everything in the computer should be deleted.
- There is nobody more qualified for the job.
Plural: both, few, many, several
- We are expecting several candidates to interview for the job.
- Many shoppers rushed in to get the best deals.
Both: all, most, some, any, none
- All travelers must clear airport security.
- Professor Mason graded most of the research papers that were submitted on time.