November 25, 2014

Pronouns: The basics

Pronouns stand in for nouns. They allow us to eliminate the repetition and awkwardness that would come with having to use nouns repeatedly.

For example, consider the following sentences written with pronouns and nouns and then with nouns alone.

  • Alan was excited when the editor for The Utne Reader called him to ask for permission to reprint an article he wrote for Atlantic Monthly about his experiences in the Philippines.
  • Alan was excited when the editor for The Utne Reader called Alan to ask for permission to reprint an article Alan wrote for Atlantic Monthly about Alan’s experiences in the Philippines.

There are six types of pronouns to consider:

(1) personal pronoun: Personal pronouns stand in for people, places, things and ideas.

(2) relative pronoun: A relative pronoun relates to another noun preceding it in the sentence. In doing so, it connects a dependent clause to an antecedent (i.e., a noun that precedes the pronoun.) Therefore, a relative pronoun acts as the subject or object of the dependent clause.

(3)indefinite pronoun: Indefinite pronouns refer to an unknown or undetermined person, place or thing.

(4) demonstrative pronoun: Demonstrative pronouns stand in for a person, place or thing that must be pointed to. They may function as subjects, objects or objects of the preposition.

(5) interrogative pronoun: Interrogative pronouns are aptly named. They basically stand in for the answer to the question being asked.

(6) reflexive pronoun: Reflexive pronouns “reflect” the person to whom the pronoun refers.

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