The five types of PRONOUNS

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What is a pronoun?

A pronoun is a word used instead of a noun. It can be used to avoid repeating yourself once the subject is known.

Example

John picked up Jane from Jane’s house.

John picked up Jane from her house.

The pronoun her replaces the noun Jane

There are five types of pronouns.

1. First person pronouns (me, I, we)

These pronouns refer to yourself or a first party personally, and can only replace your name.

Example

I am writing a letter.

The pronoun I stands for my name.

2. Second and third person pronouns (you, he, she, they)

These pronouns replace the name of a third party or someone you are talking about. It can refer to one person or a few people.

Example

They have just arrived.

The pronoun They refers to a third party.

3. Reflexive pronouns (myself, yourself, himself, herself, themselves, ourselves)

These pronouns highlight or reflect a pronoun or noun already used.

Example

I did all the work myself.

The pronoun myself refers to the pronoun I, which was used earlier in the sentence.

4. Possessive pronouns (mine, yours, them, their, hers, his, him, us)

These pronouns show possession or ownership. 

Example

This book belongs to him.

The pronoun him refers to a particular person who has ownership of the book.

5. Relative pronouns (that, who, whose, whom, which)

These pronouns replace a noun and are used to join two sentences.

Example

The man is wearing a black coat. The man is driving fast.

The man, who is wearing a black coat, is driving fast.

The relative pronoun who replaces The man and is used to join the sentences.


PRONOUNS: TIP FOR DECIDING ON THE CORRECT WORD

With a pair of people, try the sentence without the other person. The same tip applies to him, her, she and he. 

Example

Roz gave the proposal to my colleague and me/I.

Trying without the other person: Roz gave the proposal to me. Roz gave the proposal to I.

Therefore, the correct answer is me, not I

Don’t use myself when me will do.

Example

Steve wrote the letter for Joe and me. (Not for Joe and myself.)

Example

I did the project myself.

Here, me can’t be substituted.

PRONOUNS: TWO WRITING PROBLEMS TO CHECK FOR

1. The singular/plural problem

Sometimes writers use they or their (plural pronouns) to refer to a singular noun. This is not acceptable in business writing. When you use a singular noun, you need to use a singular pronoun. 

Poor example

If a person (singular) wants to succeed, they (plural) should attend the meeting.

Good examples

If people (plural) want to succeed, they (plural) should attend the meeting. 

If a person (singular) wants to succeed, s/he (singular) should attend the meeting.

2. The vagueness problem

Certain pronouns, including which, it, this and that must refer to a single word, not to a whole phrase.

When used to refer to a whole phrase, the sentence often becomes vague, and vagueness is detrimental when writing documents. Precise writing is one of the keys to effective writing.

Poor example

The report on missing stock can’t be found. We need to locate it.

What does it refer to?

Good example

The report on missing stock can’t be found. We need to locate the report.

 

First person pronouns
Second and third person pronouns
Reflexive pronouns
Possessive pronouns
Relative pronouns