Students understanding the complexity of language

Chapter 01-09: Pronouns


chapter 1: Pronouns

Pronouns differ from other structure-class words because they can change inflections. See how the different personal pronouns in this passage all refer to the same antecedent:
Karen went purse-shopping. She had to have the latest clutch. The store’s staff helped her out a lot while she shopped. Finally, the purse was hers!
You may have learned that pronouns substitute for nouns. That’s not  entirely accurate; they actually substitute for nominals (word, phrase, or clause). If they only substituted for nouns, we would change
That old torn hat is lying there 
That old torn it is lying there.
Because pronouns substitute for nominals, however, we can say It is lying there.
Notice that we need the context of the first sentence (That old torn hat is lying there) to understand what it is. The context provides an antecedent for it. When speaking to someone, your context might be something you’re pointing to, rather than a verbalized antecedent:
  • As you’re pointing to an old desktop computer, you say, “It runs so slow.”
 Pronoun Forms
Pronouns typically stand in for nominals (word, phrase, or clause). The antecedent is the nominal referred to by the pronoun.
Personal Pronouns refer to people or things. The form of the pronoun can indicate:
  • 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person (I, you, he, she, it)
  • number (I/we, she/them)
  • gender (he, she)
The form of personal pronouns can also indicate  whether they are functioning as subjects of sentences, as objects of  verbs or prepositions, or as possessives.
  • Karen went purse-shopping. She had to have the latest clutch. (subject case)
  • The store’s staff helped her out a lot while she shopped. (object case)
  • Finally, the purse was hers! (possessive case)
 NOTE: be sure that you can recognize the difference between a possessive determiner and a possessive pronoun.
Reflexive Pronouns occur when the antecedent appears in the same clause/sentence as the pronoun. In this case, the pronoun is reflexive:
  • You saw yourself in the mirror.
  • Phil criticized himself.
  • She promised herself never to eat McDonald’s late at night again.
 Reciprocal Pronouns are when multiple antecedents all engage in the same mutual action they call for reciprocal pronouns:
  • Can you imagine 23 faculty members shouting at one another?
  • We know each other very well.
 In this case, the pronouns are reciprocal.
Indefinite Pronouns usually don’t have a specific  referent, so they have no antecedent. You don’t need any context to  understand the pronouns in these statements:
  • Nobody came to our party.
  • One should always say please and thank you.