Grammar-QuizzesNoun PhrasesNouns › Pronouns


Recognize function and form

X structure diagram
We walk our dog daily.
‹ diagram ›
► What is a pronoun? ▼ Explanation of term

A pronoun

  • expresses a person or thing without specifying the name of the noun or thing.  A pronoun is commonly used on second mention of a noun.
  • functions as a shortened reference to a noun;
    • the  pronoun may be definite:  He called.  or it may be indefinite: Somebody walks the dog everyday.
    • the pronoun may be personal he/him, she/her, we/us, etc. or impersonal it/them or there (existence).
  • takes form as a subject pronoun: I, we, you, he, she, they, it or as an object (accusative) pronoun me, us, him, her, them, or it.

Possessive pronouns mine, ours, yours, hers, his, theirs, its are determiners.

Pronouns (more below)

Personal (I / me)

Indefinite (somebody)

Double (subj/obj)


Reflexive (myself)

Gender Neutral

Singular "they"

Pronoun Summary


persian cat

Identify specific English grammar points that need review.



Personal Pronouns: refer to personal nouns

Beg. ESL


Lea is dancing.   She enjoys dancing.
Sammy is dancing with  Lea.   He likes her.

She gave a demonstration to my friend and me.
She gave a demonstration to my friend and  I .


She's a beautiful car. Look at her lines.

Indefinite Pronouns: refer to unspecified person(s) or thing(s)

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers


Everyone had his fishing pole.

Some had their fishing poles.

Everyone had their fishing pole. (informal usage)

Double Pronouns: refer to two personal nouns

Native Speakers

Bachelor talking to date

Me and Diana got to know each other.
Diana and I got to know each other.

I had a good feeling about her and I
I had a good feeling about her and me

Reflexive Pronouns: refer to all or part of oneself

Beginning–Intermediate ESL

self dressed

He fed himself.

He washed his hands.  (part of him)

He washed himself (all of him)


Each other / One another: express a reciprocal relationship

Beginning–Intermediate ESL

self dressed

Sophie and Jim get angry at each other. 

Sophie and Jim get angry at one another.

They think each other is selfish. (sub-clausal)

*Each other is selfish.

We pass gossip to one another.

They don't care about each others' feelings.


Interrogative Pronouns: ask questions with who, whose, what, which, where, why, when or how

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers


What is the squirrel doing?

Where does it live?

Why is it burying acorns?

How does it find them again?

How many babies are in the nest?

What color squirrel is it?

Whose tree does it live in?

Who lives there?

How old is that tree?


Where is she living? interrogative pronoun

The place where she lives is our tree. relative pronoun

Can you tell me where she is running? connective pronoun

I'll tell you when she gets there. temporal preposition

Genitive Pronouns:  mark nouns for possession 

Beginning–Intermediate ESL

Naughty Dog

Our dog is over here. / Ours is over here.  

All of the owners bring water for their (own) dogs.

One  should exercise one's dog. (impersonal)

You should exercise your dog. (impersonal)

They don't like dogs there. Their dislike is unusual. (impersonal)

Collective Pronouns: refer to the group or its individuals

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers


The paparazzi made its purpose clear. It had a right to be outside her house.

The paparazzi placed their cameras right in her face. They were rude, even mean.

Gender & Pronouns: use gender neutral wording 

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers


Everyone in my class had their homework.


Grammar Dispute: citations from Fowler, Huddleston and Pullum, Merriam-Webster, Robin Lakoff, Bill Walsh, McIntyre and others.   

There as Subj Placeholder: refer to the existence of something

Beginning–Intermediate ESL

dipping cookies in milk

There is milk, yogurt and eggs on the table. (En-US)

There are milk, yogurt and eggs on the table. (En-Br)

There is milk there(locational preposition)

Milk, yogurt and eggs are on the table.

There/Their/They're: indicating location, existence or possession

Beginning–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Neighborhood Food Truck Events

Each week there is an event. (location)

Chefs prepare gourmet food-to-go. Their menus change.

There's a mobile truck that delivers lunch. (existence)

It / There Subjects: refer to weather, time, or existence

Intermediate–Advanced ESL

rain drops

Is it still raining?  It's cloudy.   (the weather)

Is there a rain on the street still?  (exists)

To do the work this way is easy. 

It  is easy to do the work this way. 

Who, Whom & That  add a modifying clause to a personal (animate) noun

Intermediate ESL, Native Speakers

Woman on Phone 

The woman who called you is here.

The woman that called you is here.

The woman  (whom) you called is here.

It as Subject Placeholder: use it to refer to a moved content clause  "It exposition"

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Fred Armisen and Barak Obama

It is obvious to all that Fred is a funny comedian.

It is easy to see his talent.

It seems to come naturally to him.

It takes a lot of talent to succeed.

It makes sense to take advantage of it.

It was late.  There were a lot of people.

It seems /occurs / is likely: express opinion about a situation

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

uncertain teen

It seems that she is doing well.

It appears to me that she likes her classes.

It occurred to me that she would probably like that.

It happens that she knows an old friend of mine.

It strikes me as odd that she would quit ballet.

It seems odd to me that she would quit anything.

It/This Reference: refer back to something

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

arrow pointing back

Apple is going to release a new operating systemIt will merge the laptop OS with the iPad and iPhone OS. 

Apple is going to release a new operating systemThis will be a huge step in merging the laptop OS with the iPad and iPhone OS.  

Pronoun Antecedent: be clear about which word the pronoun refers to

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Putting the cart before the horse

By the time they arrived, my family was very hungry.

By the time my family arrived, they were very hungry.

Tracy gave Robin a recipe.  She is a talented cook. Tracy or Robin?

Cleft Clauses:  shift emphasis to other sentence parts by moving content with it or what

Advanced ESL, Native Speaker


His energy amazed me

What amazed me was his energy.

His energy was what amazed me.

It amazed me that he had so much energy.


What– Phrase: shift emphasis to another sentence part  ("fused-relative")

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers


What he said  was funny.  (that + which)

What was funny  was his expression



Wh-ever Phrases: refer to an unknown one  (pronouns)

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers


Whatever you say is confidential.

You can take whomever you want.

Whatever way will be fine.


Genitive Nouns: indicate possession for people or things

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

The class' soccer team

The state's soccer team won several games.

The state's won several games.

The states' soccer teams won several games.

The goal post's leg was broken.
The leg of the goal post was broken.


Ditransitive Verbs–Indirect Objects: indicate the "recipient" or "beneficiary" of the action

Beginning–Intermediate ESL

A letter

My friend is bringing me a letter.

My friend is bringing a letter to me.

My friend is bringing me it.

Common Mistakes: avoid the "top 20" agreement errors

Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Jean Muffins 

Fashions come and go. * Everyone have problems balancing comfort with fashion.

Also see Nouns and Quantifiers