Pronouns are a little like the bacteria of the lexical world. They are usually small; they appear in a wide variety of forms and environments; and without them our mouths, pages and screens would be cluttered with mountains of unnecessary nouns. They break our language down so that it is digestible, while maintaining as much logic as possible.
The majority of pronouns have antecedents, the nouns or noun phrases that are replaced, but some of them do not, such as dummy pronouns, like the it in It’s raining men.
Personal pronouns are the ones that we perhaps remember first: I, me, you, he, her, we, them, etc. They do not prefer to actual people, but rather the grammatical person in a sentence. Therefore, it could refer to a cat or a battleship or a sandwich in the sentence It floated majestically across the bay.
Demonstrative pronouns (this, that, those, these) provide a little more information about how close, either in time, space or figuratively, the nouns being replaced might be – that’s the door there or this was my father’s wedding ring.
Indefinite pronouns do without an antecedent, which means they can be used for generalised statements like Everybody’s happy nowadays or Nobody puts Baby in the corner. On the other hand, interrogative pronouns are in search of the antecedent, in a sense, trying to convert the person that broke my window into a real person via the pronoun who.
The w pronouns crop up a lot among the relative pronouns too, used to link together different clauses and sentences without having to repeat all the information again. Mads Mikkelsen is a Danish actor and he played Hannibal Lecter in the recent TV series can be condensed into Mads, who played Lecter on TV, is a Danish actor, for example.
Reflexive pronouns are used when the both the object and subject of the sentence are the same thing: for example, Clint Eastwood stopped himself.
Examples of pronouns
|type of pronoun||pronoun||example|
|personal||them||I left them on the sideboard, darling.|
|interrogative||which||Which sideboard, my love?|
|relative||that||The one that I keep our wedding pictures in.|
|indefinite||anything||I can’t find anything on there. Too much clutter.|
|possessive||yours||That clutter is all yours, darling.|
|demonstrative||those||No, no. Those are my drawers for bits and bobs.|
|reflexive||myself||Are you sure? I put them there myself.|