[ proh-noun ]
/ ˈproʊˌnaʊn /
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noun Grammar.
any member of a small class of words found in many languages that are used as replacements or substitutes for nouns and noun phrases, and that have very general reference, as I, you, he, this, it, who, what. Pronouns are sometimes formally distinguished from nouns, as in English by the existence of special objective forms, as him for he or me for I, and by nonoccurrence with an article or adjective.


Click for a side-by-side comparison of meanings. Use the word comparison feature to learn the differences between similar and commonly confused words.


How To Use Personal Pronouns

It's totally cool if someone doesn't identify as a he or a she and wants to be a they. If you really want to be an ally, consider asking what pronoun someone prefers.

Should you take this quiz on “shall” versus “should”? It should prove to be a quick challenge!
Question 1 of 6
Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?

Origin of pronoun

First recorded in 1520–30; from Middle French pronom, from Latin prōnōmen (stem prōnōmin- ). See pro-1, noun

grammar notes for pronoun

Although not generally accepted as good usage, between you and I is heard occasionally in the speech of educated persons. By the traditional rules of grammar, when a pronoun is the object of a preposition, that pronoun should be in the objective case: between you and me; between her and them. The use of the nominative form ( I, he, she, they, etc.) arises partly as overcorrection, the reasoning being that if it is correct at the end of a sentence like It is I, it must also be correct at the end of the phrase between you and …. The choice of pronoun also owes something to the tendency for the final pronoun in a compound object to be in the nominative case after a verb: It was kind of you to invite my wife and I. This too is not generally regarded as good usage.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What is a pronoun?

A pronoun is a type of word that replaces a noun (reminder, a noun is a person, place, or thing). Pronouns are words like she, you, him, them, this, and who, to name a few. For example, in the sentence “Carol likes apples,” the specific proper noun Carol can be replaced with the pronoun she: “She likes apples.”

English has several categories of pronouns.

  1. Personal pronouns replace people and things. They can be singular or plural, depending on what they are replacing. They can differ depending whether they are being used as subjects or objects. Personal pronouns include I, me, we, us, you, he, she, it, and they. The sentence “Mary likes the car” can be rewritten as “She likes it.”
  2. Possessive pronouns are personal pronouns that indicate that the original noun owns or possesses something. They can also be singular or plural. Possessive pronouns include mine, theirs, your, hers, its, and ours. If you want to say a wallet belongs to your brother using a possessive pronoun, you can say, “That’s his wallet.”
  3. Reflexive pronouns are used when the original noun performs an action on itself. Reflexive pronouns include myself, yourself, itself, herself, themself, and themselves. When you look in a mirror, you can say you are looking at yourself.
  4. Reciprocal pronouns are like reflexive pronouns but for groups of two or more nouns. All members of the group perform the same action on all the other members of the group. Each other (used for a group of two) and one another (used for a group of more than two) are the only two reciprocal pronouns. For example: “My entire family loves one another and takes care of each other.”
  5. Relative pronouns include who, whom, which, that, and what. These pronouns show a relationship between the noun they stand for and something else. In “Rex is the dog that lives in that house,” the word that connects the dog with a fact about where the dog lives.
  6. Demonstrative pronouns point out someone or something. The four demonstrative pronouns are this, that, these, and those. This and these are typically used for things that are near the speaker or close by, while that and those are typically used for things that are somewhat farther away—especially things you might point to. For example: “I like these, not those over there.”
  7. Interrogative pronouns begin questions. They include who, whom, whose (which are used to refer to people), which, what (which are used to refer to things), and when (which involves time). For example: “Who are you, when did you get here, and what are you doing here?”
  8. Indefinite pronouns refer to people and things but not to a specific person or thing. Indefinite pronouns include someone, somebody, any, some, and all. When you can’t go to a concert you bought a ticket for, you might say, “I will find somebody to take my ticket.”

Why are pronouns important?

The first records of the word pronoun come from the 1520s. It originally comes from the Latin prōnōmen, which is made from pro-, which is used to indicate substitution, and nomen, meaning “name.” The word noun also comes from nomen. Pronouns themselves predate English. They were used even in ancient languages, such as Ancient Latin and Greek.

We use pronouns because it makes saying or writing things easier. See how strange it would be if we never used pronouns: Joe looked for Sarah in Sarah’s house but couldn’t find Sarah in Sarah’s room. So Joe asked Sarah’s parents where Sarah was. It’s much easier to say, Joe looked for Sarah in her house but couldn’t find her in her room. So he asked her parents where she was. 

Generally, people use the noun before they use the pronoun that refers to the noun. That’s because others might not know what the pronoun stands for if the noun isn’t used first. For example, storming into a room and saying, “Where is it?” without first saying what it is will often cause confusion.

Did you know ... ?

English has some pronouns that we no longer commonly use. Thou and thee were largely replaced with you, and thy and thine were replaced with your and yours.

What are real-life examples of pronouns?

Pronouns are a major part of English. Using them can make speech and writing more concise, but it can also cause confusion if they’re not used clearly or properly.



Quiz yourself!

Which of the following words is a pronoun?

A. the
B. be
C. see
D. we

How to use pronoun in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for pronoun

/ (ˈprəʊˌnaʊn) /

one of a class of words that serves to replace a noun phrase that has already been or is about to be mentioned in the sentence or contextAbbreviation: pron

Word Origin for pronoun

C16: from Latin prōnōmen, from pro- 1 + nōmen noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for pronoun


A word that takes the place of a noun. She, herself, it, and this are examples of pronouns. If we substituted pronouns for the nouns in the sentence “Please give the present to Karen,” it would read “Please give it to her.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.