Chapter 4
The Pronoun

We have understood that a pronoun is a word that is used instead of a noun. Let us consider the following examples.

  1. Jaya is in Delhi.
  2. Jaya visits Bangalore every year.
  3. Jaya meets Jaya's old friends.

In the above sentences the noun Jaya is used four times. The use of the same word repeatedly is jarring on the ears. We could better rewrite the whole as,

  1. Jaya is in Delhi.
  2. She visits Bangalore every year.
  3. She meets her old friends.

We find that we have used the word She in the place of Jaya and her in the place of Jaya's. These words are called pronouns, because they are used in the place of nouns. We use pronouns to avoid repetition of nouns. A pronoun is, therefore, equivalent to a noun.

In the above example the pronoun She is equivalent to the noun Jaya; the pronoun her is equivalent to the noun Jaya's. It, therefore follows that the pronoun must be of the same number, gender and person as the noun it stands for. So She is in singular number, feminine gender and third person because the noun Jaya is in singular number, feminine gender and third person.

Kinds of Pronouns

There are eight kinds of Pronouns. They are as follows:

  1. Personal pronoun
  2. Reflexive pronoun
  3. Emphatic pronoun
  4. Interrogative pronoun
  5. Demonstrative pronoun
  6. Indefinite pronoun
  7. Distributive pronoun
  8. Relative pronoun

Personal Pronoun


A pronoun when it refers to a person is called a personal pronoun.


  • I am standing before you.
  • We are in the same room.
  • They are not with us.
She is as intelligent as he is.


I, You, We, They, us, she, he, refer to persons. Therefore they are personal pronouns.


  • The baby sleeps; do not disturb it.
  • The tree is bare; it has shed its leaves.
  • In the first sentence it stands for the baby: in the second, it stands for the tree. The word it is also a personal pronoun despite of it sometime standing for a thing as in the second sentence. It is always regarded as a personal pronoun.

    Usage of it

    1. For things without life: Here is your book; take it away.
    2. For animals unless we want to refer to them as male or female: He loves his dog and takes it for a walk every evening.
    3. For a young child unless we want to refer to its sex: When I saw the child it was crying.
    4. To refer to some statement going before: She is not telling the truth; as she knows it.
    5. As a temporary subject before the verb when the real subject follows: It is easy to find fault. (To find fault is easy.)
    6. To give emphasis to the noun or pronoun following: It was you who began the argument.
    7. In speaking of the whether or the time: It is summer.
    8. As an indefinite nominative of an impersonal verb: It rains.

    Here, It does not stand for any noun though this can be readily supplied from the verb. Thus, 'It rains' means 'The rain rains'. It so used is called an impersonal pronoun. Similarly the verb rains is called an impersonal verb.

    Although it denotes the thing spoken of, it is a personal pronoun of the third person (see the following paragraph for a discussion on first person, second person and third person).

    Let us consider the following sentences.

    1. I speak to you.
    2. They are young.

    In the above, the person speaking is I. The person spoken to is you. The persons spoken of are They.

    The Pronouns I and we denote the person or persons speaking. These are said to be personal pronouns of the first person. The pronoun you denote the person or persons spoken to and is said to be a personal pronoun of the second person (you is used both in singular and plural). The Pronouns he or she and they denote the person or persons spoken of and are said to be personal pronouns of the third person. It is also a personal pronoun of the third person as mentioned earlier.

    Forms of Personal Pronouns

    Pronouns have different forms in different number and case like the noun as seen in chapter 3.

    The following are the different forms of the Personal Pronoun.

    First person (masculine or feminine)



    Nominative I We
    Possessive My, Mine Our, ours
    Accusative Me Us

    Second person (masculine or feminine)

    Nominative You
    Possessive Your, Yours
    Accusative You

    Third person

    Singular Plural


    Her, Hers


    All Genders
    Their, Theirs

    From the above table it is seen that the possessive cases of most of the personal pronouns have two forms. Of these the forms my, our, your, her and their are called Possessive Adjectives because they are used with nouns and do the work of adjectives.

    Possessive Adjectives and Possessive Pronouns

    Let us consider the following sentences.

    1. That is my house.
    2. This is her watch.
    3. That house is mine.
    4. This watch is hers.

    In the expression my house, the word my is an adjective because it qualifies the noun house; similarly in the expression her watch, the word her is an adjective as it qualifies the noun watch. So my and her are called possessive adjectives while mine and hers do not qualify any noun; so they are possessive pronouns. Possessive adjectives are sometimes called pronominal adjectives as they are formed from Pronouns.

    Both possessive adjectives and possessive pronouns denote possession.


  • The word his is used both as a possessive adjective and a possessive pronoun as shown in the following sentences.
    1. This is his book. (Possessive Adjective)
    2. This book is his. (Possessive Pronoun)
    1. The pronoun of the third person has three genders as we have seen in chapter 3.
    1. Masculine: he
    2. Feminine: she
    3. Neuter: it

    Reflexive Pronouns


    When the action done by the subject reflects (turns back) upon the subject itself, the pronoun is called a reflexive pronoun.


  • The dog bit itself.
  • The child hurt himself.
  • They themselves are responsible for it.
  • Explanation

    In the above sentences are words itself, himself and themselves. Adding self or selves to the personal pronouns form these words. In the first sentence the word itself denotes that the dog does the action to the dog. In other words, the action is reflected on the subject itself. So it is called a reflexive pronoun. Similarly the pronoun himself in the second sentence and themselves in the third sentence is also a reflexive pronoun.

    Emphatic Pronoun


    When a compound personal pronoun (see note below for an understanding of compound personal pronoun)

    is used for emphasis, it is known as an emphatic pronoun.

    Emphatic pronouns are also sometimes called emphasizing pronouns.


  • I myself saw him doing it.
  • He himself saw him doing it.
  • They themselves are responsible for it.
  • Explanation

    In the above sentences words myself, himself and themselves are used for the sake emphasis or force. So they are called emphatic pronouns.


  • When -self is added to my, your, him, her, it, and -selves to our, your, them, we get compound personal pronouns. Reflexive and emphatic pronouns are the two types of compound personal pronouns.
  • The word self is sometimes used as a noun as shown in the following sentences.
    1. She cares for nothing but self.
    2. She thinks much of self.
    1. The same pronouns can be used either as reflexive or as emphatic pronouns as shown in the following sentences.
    1. I will do it myself. (Reflexive pronoun)
    2. I myself saw him do it. (Emphatic pronoun)

    Interrogative Pronouns


    Pronouns that are used for asking questions are called interrogative pronouns.


  • What is your name?
  • Who gave you the purse?
  • Which is your coat?
  • To whom does it belong?
  • Explanation

    The words what, who, which and whom are pronouns. They are used to ask questions. So they are called interrogative pronouns. (Interrogate - ask).


    Which, what, whose can also be used as adjectives as shown in the sentences below.

  • Which pencil did you buy?
  • What article is that?
  • Whose letter is that?
  • These words qualify nouns and they are used to ask questions. They are interrogative adjectives.

    Demonstrative Pronouns


    A demonstrative pronoun is one that points to some noun going before. (Latin demonstrare, to show clearly)


  • Thisis my book.
  • These are our books.
  • That is my umbrella.
  • Those are our umbrellas.
  • Such of those as are lazy will not be rewarded.
  • Yonder is Tippu's palace.
  • Explanation

    This, These, That, Those, Such and Yonder in the above sentences are pronouns. They point out or demonstrate some noun. They are therefore, called demonstrative pronouns.


    The same words can be used either pronouns or as adjectives. This, that, these and those can also be used as adjectives as shown in the sentences below.

    1. This book is mine.
    2. That pencil was bought yesterday.
    3. I know these boys.
    4. Those colours are beautiful.

    In the above sentences This, That, these and Those qualify some nouns. They are adjectives. They also point out nouns and so they are demonstrative adjectives.

    Usage of this, that and those

  • This refers to what is closest at hand or nearest to the person while that refers to something that is farther away.
    This is better than that.
  • That and its plural those are used to avoid the repetition of the preceding  noun
    Ram's writing style is like that of John's.
    The streets of Bangalore are worse than those of Mysore.
  • When two things which have been already mentioned are referred to, this       refers to the thing last mentioned, that to the first mentioned.
    Alcohol and tobacco are both injurious; this (i.e., tobacco) perhaps, less than that (i.e., alcohol).
  • Indefinite Pronouns


    Pronouns that refer to persons or things in a general way without referring to any person or thing in particular are called indefinite pronouns.


  • Some are born great.
  • A few do not like tomatoes.
  • One does not know the future.
  • They say that the king was murdered.
  • None of the articles is cheap.
  • We do not need any of them.
  • Explanation

    The words some, a few, one, they, none and any are pronouns. They do not refer to any particular individual or thing. They refer to persons or things in a general way. They are indefinite pronouns.

    Most of these words may also be used as adjectives.

    1. I will take you there one day.
    2. Any fool can do that.
    3. He is a man of few words.
    4. Some milk was spilt.

    In referring to anybody, everybody, everyone, anyone, each etc., the pronoun he or she is used according to the context.

    1. I shall be glad to help everyone of my boys in his studies.
    2. I shall spend time with everyone of my girls during her lunch break.

    Distributive Pronouns


    When a pronoun refers to persons or things one at a time, it is called a distributive pronoun.


  • Each of the boys was given an orange.
  • Either of the boxes is sold out.
  • Neither of the candidates is suitable.
  • Explanatio

    Each, Either, Neither refers to one person or thing at a time. They are distributive pronouns.

    A distributive pronoun is always singular in number and so takes a singular number as they always refer to persons or things one at a time.

    Relative Pronouns


    A relative pronoun relates or refers (i.e., carries us back) to a noun going before.


  • This is the house that Jack built.
  • I know Hari who broke the window.
  • Explanation

    The first sentence has a pair of sentences:

    This is the house. Jack built this house.

    Similarly the second sentence has a pair of sentences:
    I know Hari. Hari broke the window.

    The word that in the first sentence is used instead of Jack and the word who in the second sentence is used instead of Hari. Jack and Hari are nouns and therefore the words that and who are pronouns. The word that in the first sentence relates to the noun house. It also joins two clauses. Similarly the pronoun who in the second sentence relates to the noun Hari and it also joins two clauses. We call them relative pronouns.


  • Since the words that and who also connect two statements, they are also conjunctions.
  • In the first sentence that relates to the noun house. In the second sentence who relates to the noun Hari. The nouns House and Hari are called antecedents. The antecedent is the noun or pronoun to which the relative pronoun refers.
  • The relative pronoun refers to its antecedent and it has to be in the same gender, number and person, as the antecedent. In other words, the relative pronoun agrees with its antecedent in number, gender and person.

    Usage of 'who, 'which' and 'that'

    Generally who is used for persons, which for animals and lifeless things and that for both. The following sentences demonstrate the usage of who, which and that.

    1. This is the man who was elected.
    2. The hunter wounded the deer, which escaped from the tiger.
    3. The moment which is lost is lost forever.
    4. He that is virtuous is happy.
    5. The book that you lent me is lost.
    6. It was the queen that deserved punishment.
    7. The cat that killed the mouse drowned.

    Omission of the Relative Pronoun

    Let us consider the following sentences.

    1. The soldiers obeyed the order the commander gave.
    2. Here is the dog you sold.
    3. This is the boy you praised.

    In the above sentences the relative pronouns that (examples1and 2) and whom (example3) are understood and therefore have been omitted.

    The relative pronoun when in the accusative case is often omitted.

    Omission of the Antecedent

    Let us consider the following sentences.

    1. Who steals my purse steals trash.
    2. Whom the Gods love die young.
    3. Who laughs last laughs best.

    In the above sentences the antecedents, He, Those, He are omitted respectively as they are understood. But for the omission the sentences would have read as follows:

  • He who steals my purse steals trash.
  • Those whom the Gods love die young.
  • He who laughs last laughs best.
  • But and As as Relative Pronouns

    In the following sentences but and as are used as relative pronouns.

    1. There was none but loved Caesar.
    (There was none who did not love Caesar.)

    2. There is no rose but has a thorn.
    (There is no rose that does not have a thorn.)

    3. She is such a lady as I would honour.
    (She is the type of lady who I could honour.

    4. His answer was such as I expected him to give.
    (I expected him to answer in the way he did)