Skip to main content
Select Source:

PRONOUN

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.

Subclasses

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).

Form

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).

Function

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.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"PRONOUN." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"PRONOUN." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pronoun

"PRONOUN." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Retrieved September 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pronoun

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

pronoun

pronoun, in English, the part of speech used as a substitute for an antecedent noun that is clearly understood, and with which it agrees in person, number, and gender. In English the pronouns are classified as personal (I, we, you, thou, he, she, it, they), demonstrative (this, these, that, those), relative (who, which, that, as), indefinite (e.g., each, all, everyone, either, one, both, any, such, somebody), interrogative (who, which, what), possessive, sometimes termed possessive adjectives (my, your, his, her, our, their), and reflexive (e.g., myself, herself). The case of the pronoun depends upon its function in the sentence structure.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"pronoun." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"pronoun." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pronoun

"pronoun." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pronoun

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

pronoun

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.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"pronoun." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"pronoun." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pronoun

"pronoun." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved September 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pronoun

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

pronoun

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).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"pronoun." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"pronoun." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pronoun-0

"pronoun." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved September 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pronoun-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

pronoun

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.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"pronoun." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"pronoun." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pronoun-1

"pronoun." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved September 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pronoun-1

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

pronoun

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

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"pronoun." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"pronoun." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pronoun

"pronoun." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved September 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pronoun

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.