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PRONOUN A traditional PART OF SPEECH that is typically used as a substitute for a noun or noun phrase. In contemporary grammatical theory, pronouns are sometimes viewed as a subclass of nouns. They constitute a closed class, in that few new pronouns ever enter a language.


There are eight subclasses: PERSONAL PRONOUNS (I, we, they, etc.); possessive pronouns (my/mine, our/ours, their/theirs, etc.); REFLEXIVE PRONOUNS (myself, ourselves, themselves, etc.); DEMONSTRATIVE PRONOUNS (this, that, these, those); RECIPROCAL PRONOUNS (each other, one another); interrogative pronouns (who, what, etc.); relative pronouns (who, that, etc.); indefinite pronouns (any, somebody, none, etc.). Some forms belong to more than one subclass: who is an interrogative pronoun in Who is that? and a relative pronoun in the child who did that … Some may belong to other parts of speech: any is a pronoun in Do you want any? and a determiner (like the definite article, introducing a noun phrase) in Do you want any money? The possessive pronouns have two sets of forms: one strictly speaking a determiner (my in You have my book), the other a pronoun (mine in That book is mine).


Some of the sets of pronouns have distinctions in PERSON, NUMBER, CASE, or GENDER. Personal pronouns have distinctions in: person (I, you, she); number (I, we); gender (in the third-person singular only: he, she, it); case (subjective I, objective me). Possessives may be viewed as genitives of personal pronouns and make similar distinctions, as do reflexives (which do not have case). Demonstratives have distinctions in number (this, that versus these, those) and in physical or metaphorical distance (this, these are nearer to speaker than that, those). The reciprocals have genitives (each other's, one another's), as do the indefinites ending in -body and -one (such as somebody's, anyone's). Finally, the interrogatives and relatives have distinctions in gender (personal who and normally non-personal what for interrogatives, personal who and non-personal which for relatives), and in case (subjective who, objective whom, genitive whose).


In contemporary grammar, the pronoun by itself usually constitutes a noun phrase, though with certain restrictions some pronouns may be modified: something colourful; those who know; what else. As the main or only word in the noun phrase, it has the same set of syntactic functions as a noun. Many of the pronouns have important discourse functions. They contribute to cohesion in discourse by referring back to a previous unit in anaphora (he in While Matthew was in Jerusalem, he joined a peculiar cult) or forward to a subsequent unit in cataphora (Although she is studying hard, Deborah finds time to help me). Some of the pronouns are used in deixis to refer directly to persons or things in the situation of the discourse: I for the speaker or writer and you for the person or persons addressed, and it in Pick it up (where the thing referred to by it is not previously named). See GENERIC PRONOUN, RASTA TALK.

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pronounbrown, Browne, clown, crown, down, downtown, drown, frown, gown, low-down, noun, renown, run-down, town, upside-down, uptown •crackdown • clampdown • Ashdown •markdown • letdown • meltdown •breakdown, shakedown, takedown •kick-down • thistledown • sit-down •climbdown • countdown •Southdown •godown, hoedown, showdown, slowdown •put-down • touchdown • tumbledown •comedown •rundown, sundown •shutdown • eiderdown • nightgown •pronoun • Jamestown • Freetown •midtown • Bridgetown • Kingstown •shanty town • Georgetown • Motown •hometown • toytown • Newtown •Charlottetown • Chinatown

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pronoun (gram.). XVI. f. PRO-1 instead of + NOUN, after F. pronom, L. prōnōmen, tr. Gr. antōnumíā f. ANTI- + ónuma, ónoma NAME.
So pronominal XVII. — Late L. prōnōminālis.

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pronoun Linguistic category (part of speech) that has no complete independent meaning and that derives some aspect of meaning from elsewhere. Deictic pronouns take some of their meaning from context, such as you, whose meaning changes according to who is speaking and who is addressed. Anaphoric pronouns take some of their meaning from a previous part of what is said or written: in the sentence The piano stood where everyone could see it, ‘it’ refers to the piano mentioned (its antecedent). Types of pronouns are: personal, relative, intensive, reflexive, interrogative, and demonstrative.

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pro·noun / ˈprōˌnoun/ • n. a word that can function by itself as a noun phrase and that refers either to the participants in the discourse (e.g., I, you) or to someone or something mentioned elsewhere in the discourse (e.g., she, it, this).