In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun (abbreviated pro) is a word that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase. It is a particular case of a pro- form.
Pronouns have traditionally been regarded as one of the parts of speech, but some modern theorists would not consider them to form a single class, in view of the variety of functions they perform. Subtypes include personal pronouns, reflexive and reciprocal pronouns, possessive pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, relative pronouns, interrogative pronouns, and indefinite pronouns.:1–34
The use of pronouns often involves anaphora, where the meaning of the pronoun is dependent on an antecedent. This applies especially to third-person personal pronouns and relative pronouns. For example, in the sentence That poor man looks as if he needs a new coat, the antecedent of the pronoun he is the noun phrase that poor man.
The adjective associated with pronoun is pronominal.[A] A pronominal is also a word or phrase that acts as a pronoun. For example, in That’s not the one I wanted, the phrase the one (containing the prop- word one) is a pronominal.
|English personal pronouns:52|
Personal pronouns may be classified by person, number, gender and case. English has three persons (first, second and third) and two numbers (singular and plural); in the third person singular there are also distinct pronoun forms for male, female and neuter gender. Principal forms are shown in the adjacent table (see also English personal pronouns).
English personal pronouns have two cases, subject and object. Subject pronouns are used in subject position (I like to eat chips, but shedoes not). Object pronouns are used for the object of a verb or preposition (John likes me but not her).
Other distinct forms found in some languages include:
- Second person informal and formal pronouns (the T-V distinction), like tu and vous in French. There is no such distinction in standard modern English, though Elizabethan English marked the distinction with thou (singular informal) and you (plural or singular formal), and this is preserved in some dialects.
- Inclusive and exclusive first person plural pronouns, which indicate whether or not the audience is included, that is, whether “we” means
“you and I” or “they and I”. There is no such distinction in English.
- Intensive (emphatic) pronouns, which re-emphasize a noun or pronoun that has already been mentioned. English uses the same forms as the reflexive pronouns; for example: I did it myself (contrast reflexive use, I did it to myself).
- Direct and indirect object pronouns, such as le and lui in French. English uses the same form for both; for example: Mary loves him(direct object); Mary sent him a letter (indirect object).
- Prepositional pronouns, used after a preposition. English uses ordinary object pronouns here: Mary looked at him.
- Disjunctive pronouns, used in isolation or in certain other special grammatical contexts, like moi in French. No distinct forms exist in English; for example: Who does this belong to? Me.
- Strong and weak forms of certain pronouns, found in some languages such as Polish.
- Some special uses of personal pronouns include:
- Generic you, where second person pronouns are used in an indefinite sense: You can’t buy good old-fashioned bulbs these days.
- Generic they: In China they drive on the right.
- Gender non-specific uses, where a pronoun needs to be found to refer to a person whose sex is not specified. Solutions sometimes used in English include generic he and singular they.
- Dummy pronouns (expletive pronouns), used to satisfy a grammatical requirement for a noun or pronoun, but contributing nothing to meaning: It is raining..
- Resumptive pronouns, “intrusive” personal pronouns found (for example) in some relative clauses where a gap (trace) might be expected: This is the girl that I don‘t know what she said.
Reflexive and reciprocal
Main articles: Reflexive pronoun and Reciprocal pronoun
Reflexive pronouns are used when a person or thing acts on itself, for example, John cut himself. In English they all end in -self or – selvesand must refer to a noun phrase elsewhere in the same clause.
Reciprocal pronouns refer to a reciprocal relationship (each other, one another). They must refer to a noun phrase in the same clause. An example in English is: They do not like each other. In some languages, the same forms can be used as both reflexive and reciprocal pronouns.
Main articles: Possessive and Possessive determiner
Possessive pronouns are used to indicate possession (in a broad sense). Some occur as independent noun phrases: mine, yours, hers, ours, yours, theirs. An example is: Those clothes are mine. Others act as
a determiner (adjective) and must accompany a noun: my, your, her, our, your, their, as in: I lost my wallet. (His and its can fall into either category, although its is nearly always found in the second.) Those of the second type have traditionally also been described as possessive adjectives, and in more modern terminology as possessive determiners. The term “possessive pronoun” is sometimes restricted to the first type. Both types replace possessivenoun phrases. As an example, Their crusade to capture our attention could replace The advertisers’ crusade to capture our attention.
Main article: Demonstrative pronoun
Demonstrative pronouns (in English, this, that and their plurals these, those) often distinguish their targets by pointing or some other indication of position; for example, I’ll take these. They may also be anaphoric, depending on an earlier expression for context, for example, A kid actor would try to be all sweet, and who needs that?
Main article: Indefinite pronoun
Indefinite pronouns, the largest group of pronouns, refer to one or more unspecified persons or things. One group in English includes compounds of some-, any-, every- and no- with -thing, -one and -body, for example: Anyone can do that. Another group, including many, more, both, and most, can appear alone or followed by of. In addition,
- Distributive pronouns are used to refer to members of a group separately rather than collectively. (To each his own.)
- Negative pronouns indicate the non-existence of people or things. (Nobody thinks that.)
- Impersonal pronouns normally refer to a person, but are not specific as to first, second or third person in the way that the personal pronouns are. (One does not clean one’s own windows.)
Main article: Relative pronoun
Relative pronouns (who, whom, whose, what, which and that) refer back to people or things previously mentioned: People who smoke should quit now. They are used in relative clauses.:56
Main article: Interrogative word
Interrogative pronouns ask which person or thing is meant. In reference to a person, one may use who (subject), whom (object) or whose (possessive); for example, Who did that? In colloquial speech, whom is generally replaced by who. English non-personal interrogative
pronouns (which and what) have only one form.
In English and many other languages (e.g. French and Czech), the sets of relative and interrogative pronouns are nearly identical. Compare English: Who is that?(interrogative) and I know the woman who came (relative). In some other languages, interrogative pronouns and indefinite pronouns are frequently identical; for example, Standard Chinese 什 么shénme means “what?” as well as “something” or “anything”.
|Archaic personal pronouns:52|
Though the personal pronouns described above are the contemporary English pronouns, older forms of modern English (as used by Shakespeare, for example) use a slightly different set of personal pronouns as shown in the table. The difference is entirely in the second person. Though one would rarely find these older forms used in literature from recent centuries, they are nevertheless considered modern.
The use of pronouns often involves anaphora, where the meaning of the pronoun is dependent on another referential element. The referent of the pronoun is often the same as that of a preceding (or sometimes following) noun phrase, called the antecedent of the pronoun. The following sentences give examples of particular types of pronouns used with antecedents:
- Third-person personal pronouns:
- That poor man looks as if he needs a new coat. (the noun phrase that poor man is the antecedent of he)
- Julia arrived yesterday. I met her at the station. (Julia is the antecedent of her)
- When they saw us, the lions began roaring (the lions is the antecedent of they; as it comes after the pronoun it may be called a postcedent)
- Other personal pronouns in some circumstances:
- Terry and I were hoping no-one would find us. (Terry and I is the antecedent of us)
- You and Alice can come if you like. (you and Alice is the antecedent of the second
– plural – you)
- Reflexive and reciprocal pronouns:
- Jack hurt himself. (Jack is the antecedent of himself)
- We were teasing each other. (we is the antecedent of each other)
- Relative pronouns:
- The woman who looked at you is my sister. (the woman is the antecedent of who)
Some other types, such as indefinite pronouns, are usually used without antecedents. Relative pronouns are used without antecedents in free relative clauses. Even third-person personal pronouns are sometimes used without antecedents (“unprecursed”) – this applies to special uses such as dummy pronouns and generic they, as well as cases where the referent is implied by the context.
Pronouns (antōnymía) are listed as one of eight parts of speech in The Art of Grammar, a treatise on Greek grammar attributed to Dionysius Thrax and dating from the 2nd century BC. The pronoun is described there as “a part of speech substitutable for a noun and marked for a person.” Pronouns continued to be regarded as a part of speech in Latin grammar (the Latin term being pronomen, from which the English name – through Middle French – ultimately derives), and thus in the European tradition generally.
In more modern approaches, pronouns are less likely to be considered to be a single word class, because of the many different syntactic roles that they play, as represented by the various different types of pronouns listed in the previous sections.
|Demonstrativ e||this||this gentleman|
Certain types of pronouns are often identical or similar in form to determiners with related meaning; some English examples are given in the table on the right. This observation has led some linguists, such as Paul Postal, to regard pronouns as determiners that have had their following noun or noun phrase deleted. (Such patterning can even be claimed for certain personal pronouns; for example, we and you might be analyzed as determiners in phrases like we Brits and you tennis players.)
Other linguists have taken a similar view, uniting pronouns and determiners into a single class, sometimes called “determiner-pronoun”, or regarding determiners as a subclass of pronouns or vice versa. The distinction may be considered to be one of subcategorization or valency, rather like the distinction between transitive and intransitive verbs – determiners take a noun phrase complement like transitive verbs do, while pronouns do not. This is consistent with the determiner phrase viewpoint, whereby a determiner, rather than the noun that follows it, is taken to be the head of the phrase.
The grammatical behavior of certain types of pronouns, and in particular their possible relationship with their antecedents, has been the focus of studies in binding, notably in the Chomskyan government and binding theory. In this context, reflexive and reciprocal pronouns (such as himself and each other) are referred to as anaphors (in a specialized restricted sense) rather than as pronominal elements.
In linguistics, an adjective (abbreviated adj) is a describing word, the main syntactic role of which is to qualify a noun or noun phrase, giving more information about the object signified.
Adjectives are one of the English parts of speech, although they were historically classed together with the nouns. Certain words that were traditionally considered to be adjectives, including the, this, my, etc., are today usually classed separately, as determiners.
Types of Use
A given occurrence of an adjective can generally be classified into one of three kinds of use:
Attributive adjectives are part of the noun phrase headed by the noun they modify; for example, happy is an attributive adjective in “happy people”. In some languages, attributive adjectives precede their nouns; in others, they follow their nouns; and in yet others, it depends on the adjective, or on the exact relationship of the adjective to the noun. In English, attributive adjectives usually precede their nouns in simple phrases, but often follow their nouns when the adjective is modified or qualified by a phrase acting as an adverb. For example: “I saw three happy kids”, and “I saw three kids happy enough to jump up and down with glee.” See also Postpositive adjective.
Predicative adjectives are linked via a copula or other linking mechanism to the noun or pronoun they modify; for example, happy is a predicate adjective in “they are happy” and in “that made me happy.”
(See also: Predicative expression, Subject complement.)
Nominal adjectives act almost as nouns. One way this can happen is if a noun is elided and an attributive adjective is left behind. In the sentence, “I read two books to them; he preferred the sad book, but she preferred the happy”, happy is a nominal adjective, short for “happy one” or “happy book”. Another way this can happen is in phrases like “out with the old, in with the new”, where “the old” means, “that which is old” or “all that is old”, and similarly with “the new”. In such cases, the adjective functions may function as a mass noun (as in the preceding example). In English, it may also function as a plural count noun denoting a collective group, as in “The meek shall inherit the Earth”, where “the meek” means “those who are meek” or “all who are meek”