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Other Pronouns

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Overview:

In addition to personal pronouns, there are many different types of pronouns that can be used to take the place of the main noun in a sentence or paragraph. This handout will help clarify when to use each type of pronoun to maintain clarity and specificity in your writing.

Types of Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns refer to non-specific persons or things. Although most indefinite pronouns are noun equivalents, some also act as adjectives. Common indefinite pronouns include:

all

another

any

anybody

anyone

anything

both

each

either

everybody

everyone

everything

few

many

neither

nobody

none

no one

nothing

one

several

some

somebody

someone

something

In the sentence, “Everyone writes at some point in their education,” everyone is the indefinite pronoun.

Possessive pronouns indicate ownership. These pronouns often function as adjectives. Note that possessive pronouns are exempt from the rule that requires the addition of an apostrophe and an “s” to show possession.

Singular:  my, mine, your, yours, her, hers, his, its

Plural:  our, ours, your, yours, their, theirs

      His essay is more developed than mine.

Above, the pronoun his shows who possesses the essay, and mine is a pronoun that replaces the speaker’s essay.

Demonstrative pronouns point to nouns. Even though demonstrative pronouns usually function as adjectives (This sentence is clear), they can also act as noun equivalents (This is the clearest sentence).  Demonstrative pronouns include:

Singular: this, that

Plural: these, those

      I checked out several books from that library today. These are for my research paper.

Here, that modifies “library,” telling the reader which specific library is being discussed while these replaces and refers back to “several books.”

Relative pronouns begin clauses that function as adjectives and point back to the noun that the clause modifies. Relative pronouns include:

who

whom

whose

which

that

For more about when to use who or whom, go here.

In the following sentence, that is the relative pronoun and “that I wrote” is the clause modifying “the paper.”

      The paper that I wrote was well organized. 

Interrogative pronouns introduce questions, such as “Which assignment is due today?”  Interrogative pronouns include:

who

whom

whose

which

what

      Who will be at the party?

Reflexive Pronouns refer back to the subject of the sentence. Reflexive pronouns include:

myself

yourself

herself

himself

itself

ourselves

yourselves

themselves

      She must remind herself to tape her favorite show or else she will miss it.

Here, herself refers back to she, which is the subject of the sentence.

Intensive Pronouns include the same pronouns as reflexive pronouns, but they give special emphasis to a noun.

      The president herself visited the children in the hospital.

In this example, the usage of the intensive pronoun herself helps to illustrate that the president’s visit to the hospital was particularly meaningful because of her position.

Reciprocal pronouns refer to how the individual parts of a plural antecedent interact, as in “The students help each other proofread their papers.” Here, each other is the reciprocal pronoun, while “the students” is the plural antecedent.  The two Reciprocal Pronouns are each other and one another.

Style Matters:

These pronouns should be used to help give more information about a noun; therefore, you must use them carefully so as to avoid confusion within your writing. In the example below, the use of an inappropriate indefinite pronoun causes the writer to lose credibility because she is over-generalizing a topic.  

      Everyone who listens to hip hop is a thug and a menace to society.

The use of the indefinite pronoun everyone not only makes a generalized (and offensive) statement about people who listen to hip hop, but also about hip hop itself. Therefore, as not to marginalize your audience, make sure you choose your pronouns thoughtfully.

Now, take a moment to look at your own writing. Do your pronoun choices align with the intent of your paper? Does each function to give more information about a noun?


Copyright (C) 2010. All rights reserved.
This handout is part of a library of instructional materials used in California State University, Long Beach’s writing center, the Writer’s Resource Lab. Educators and students are welcome to distribute copies as long as they do so with attribution