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What Are Pronouns? (First, Second, and Third)

Personal pronouns are words that stand in the place of nouns. The Latin word, pronoun, 'pronomen' translates to "word standing in place of a noun."

Last updated on February 2nd, 2024 at 04:16 pm


What are pronouns in grammar?

Pronouns are everywhere in language, and we use them all the time (even if you’re not aware of it). We use pronouns in the place of nouns so we can avoid having to repeat the same word multiple times in sentences. In fact, pronoun evolved from the Latin word, pronomen, “a word standing in place of a noun”. There’s a lot to know about pronouns, but luckily you’re in the write place. Don’t quit now!

How do we use pronouns?

Without pronouns, English would look and sound a lot different than it does. It would be riddled with repetition since we’d have to repeat the same word over and over again. Take a look:

Ashley is at home today because Ashley is not feeling well.

Henry works hard at Henry’s job.

In both of these sentences, it would be better to avoid the repetition of the noun and simply say:

Ashley is at home today because she is not feeling well.

Henry works hard at his job.

See how much clearer these sentences are? This is the role of pronouns: ‘she‘ and ‘his‘ stand in the place of the nouns they refer to, (Ashley and Henry, respectively), so we can avoid repeating the same word again in the same sentence.

What are personal pronouns?

Personal pronouns change based on their grammatical person or point of view (POV):

I am strong.

We are strong.

You are strong.

They are strong.

He, (she, it) is strong.



The words in bold are personal pronouns. The first and second sentence are pronouns from the first person perspective: I and we are from our own point of view (I is singular, and we is plural). When we are the one’s speaking, we do so from the first person point of view.

Personal pronouns

I wanted to go for a walk today, but then I registered my to-do list.

I am tired today.

I have a lot of work to do.

You refers to the person being spoken to or addressed, and uses the second person perspective. We use you for both the singular and plural subjects.

The third person perspective has to do with whomever or whatever is being spoken of or about. He, she, they, it are all pronouns of the third person. To know which point of view is being used, ask yourself: who is the person speaking? Are they themselves speaking (using I or we), addressing another person with ‘you‘, or is someone being spoken about? Answering this will help you identify which perspective is in use.

Possessive pronouns

As the name implies, possessive pronouns (and possessive adjectives) show possession or belonging:

That laptop is mine.

Those books are yours.

That bag is hers.

Whose jacket does this belong to?

  • F‍irst person possessive pronouns: my, mine (singular) our, ours (plural)
  • Second person possessives: your, yours.
  • Third person possessives: his, her/hers, its, their, theirs.

Of the possessive pronouns, some are better categorized as possessive adjectives (also called pronominal adjectives, since they are formed from pronouns). My, our, your, her and their are all possessive adjectives, and precede the nouns that they qualify. His can function either as an adjective or a pronoun:

This is his bike. (Possessive adjective)

This bike is his. (Possessive pronoun)

This is my laptop (Possessive adjective)

The laptop is mine. (Possessive pronoun)

The pronoun ‘it’

It is a pronoun in the third-person singular. It along with they, their and them are all gender-neutral pronouns. The difference with ‘it‘ is that typically it refers to inanimate objects, non-human animals or in cases where gender is not known (as with some babies).

This is your book; please take it. (inanimate object)

The horse fell and broke its leg. (animals)

Have you seen the baby? It’s so cute!



Keep on reading!



Sources

  1. High School English Grammar and Composition, P.C. Wren.
  2. Grammarly on pronouns.

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