Pronouns

Definition of a pronoun



A pronoun is used as a form of lexical shorthand, indicating a noun (or noun phrase) already mentioned or known some other way.

There are a number of different classifications of pronoun, of which more below. Each of them enables the pronoun to relate differently to the rest of the sentence – whether to supply more information or request it, indicate possession or demonstrate real or figurative distance.
In fact, pronouns fulfil so many different roles that many linguists no longer consider them parts of speech.

There is often confusion about which pronoun to use (especially regarding the choice between who and whom), which perhaps arises from the fact there are objective versions (I, we, who) and subjective versions (me, us, whom). If it seems unclear whether to say Daddy and I or Daddy and me, remember that the objective version performs the verb (Daddy and I cleaned the car) and the subjective receives the action (The wet gave Daddy and me pneumonia).

What we need are poems that interrogate the world of pronouns, open up possibilities of language and life; forms of politics that support and encourage self-affirmation.

Judith Butler

The pronoun does not necessarily form an exact semantic match with the referent noun, or antecedent: for example, I have a huge collection of antique cuckoo clocks, but this is my favourite one might seem a little confusing logically as there is a plural/singular mismatch: numerous clocks but only one favourite. Nevertheless, the sense of connection between the clauses seems obvious.

Classification of pronouns

Personal pronouns represent the subjects and objects in a sentence – I and me, we and us, they and them.

Possessive pronouns take the place of possessive nouns (the doctor’s, Great Britain’s) and possessive adjective/noun combinations (my skirt, your keys): for example, the US showed off their haul of gold medals, while the British team polished theirs.

Demonstrative pronouns (that, this, those, these) are used to demonstrate physical or figurative distance, as in These toffees here are mine, those are yours.

Relative pronouns like which and who connect clauses together to add more information to a sentence, while interrogative pronouns include similar pronouns in questions. Who had baked the cakes that were so delicious? combines both relative and interrogative.

Reflexive pronouns tie the object and subject of the sentence together: for example, Dom confused himself with information about pronouns.


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