We talk a lot about pronouns today, especially she/hers, he/him, and of course the age-old palaver over the singular they. But, if you’re really going to dig into your pronouns, shouldn’t you know all the types that are out there? We’re here to help. Certain types of pronouns closely relate to one another, and many words can function as multiple different types of pronouns, depending how they’re used.
Personal pronouns take the place of people or things. They can be either singular or plural, depending whether they refer to one or multiple nouns. Examples include I, me, we, and us.
Personal pronouns are usually either the subject of a sentence or an object within a sentence. Each personal pronoun has different forms depending on its function. For example, if a writer is referring to himself, he should use I if he’s the subject of a sentence, as in “I saw the dog.” If he’s the object, he should use me, as in “The dog saw me.”
Possessive pronouns are personal pronouns that also indicate possession of something. They have singular forms (like my), and plural forms (like our). These pronouns often appear before the possessed item, but not always. For example, both “my car” and “the car is mine” both indicate who owns the car.
When a subject performs an action on itself, the sentence uses a reflexive pronoun after the verb. Reflexive pronouns include myself, himself, themselves, and herself. An example of a reflexive pronoun is the common expression “I kicked myself.”
Reciprocal pronouns are similar to reflexive pronouns, but they involve groups of two or more that perform the same action with one another. There are only two reciprocal pronouns: each other (for groups of two) and one another (for larger groups).
A relative pronoun starts a clause (a group of words that refer to a noun). Who, that, and which are all relative pronouns. They can also serve as other types of pronouns, depending on the sentence. For example, in “I saw the dog that you own,” the relative pronoun that is the beginning of the clause that you own, which describes the dog.
Demonstrative pronouns point out or modify a person or thing. There are four demonstrative pronouns: this and that (for singular words), and these and those (for plural words).
Interrogative pronouns begin questions. For example, in “Who are you?”, the interrogative pronoun who starts the question. There are five interrogative pronouns: who, whom, and whose (for questions that involve people), and which and what (for questions that involve things).
Like personal pronouns, indefinite pronouns refer to people or things, but they don’t have a specific person or thing to reference. Examples of indefinite pronouns include some, anyone, and everything.
Here’s another common confusable people mix up … do you know the difference?