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PRONOUNS

My article on Parts of speech has the poem which reminds us of the eight different classes of words in a sentence. In the poem is a line that states, ‘In place of a noun the pronoun stands’.

A pronoun is therefore used to avoid repeating a noun over and over again. Imagine you were writing a story about 'The Lost Tickle', and write: 'Lucy started looking for Auntie Pam's Tickle. Lucy looked into drawers and tables. Lucy looked inside the fridge, but the tickle wasn't there. Lucy asked Cleo the cat.' The word ‘Lucy’ is repeated at the beginning of all four sentences and this makes it sound boring.

That is where pronouns are used to avoid repetition of the nouns. A pronoun is thus a word that replaces a noun in a sentence. They include; he , she, we, they, our and them, The noun to which a pronoun refers is sometimes called the antecedent. In the piece about Lucy, ‘She' can replace the second and the third sentences. With that, ‘Lucy’ becomes the antecedent of ‘she’.

TYPES OF PRONOUNS

Personal Pronouns

There are various categories of pronouns depending on the function they perform. The first type of pronouns is the Personal Pronoun. As the name states, they are pronouns that talk about people. Let's take a look at the following sentences:

'Jack and Jill went up the hill. Jack and Jill are friends.' This sounds repetitive. We can improve it by replacing ‘Jack and Jill’ with the pronoun, ‘they’. So this can be 'They are friends.'

Personal pronouns are of 3 types. They are: the subject; the object; and the possessive pronouns. A subject pronoun is used in place of a subject in a sentence. They are:

I, you, he, she, it, we and they. Each of the above pronouns replaces the noun that a sentence is about (i.e. the subject) and so the name subject pronouns.

In any sentence, the noun receiving the action, is the object of the sentence and the pronoun that replaces it is the object pronoun. The sentence below is an example:

‘Bill went to the park and met John. He gave him a football.’

In the first sentence, 'Bill' is the subject and 'John' is the object.

'Bill' can be replaced with 'he' and ‘John’ will become 'him'. So In the second sentence, ‘he’ is the subject pronoun (replaces Bill) and ‘him’ is the object (replacing John). The object pronouns are; me, you, him, her, it, us and them.

The possessive pronouns are my, mine, your(s), his, her(s), ours and its. Mine, yours, his, hers, ours, theirs and its tend to be used after the noun to which they refer and mean the thing belonging to me / you / him / her / them / us.

Examples found in sentences include:

'He had forgotten his gloves again, so I gave him mine.'

'We were madly envious because their house was much nicer than ours.'

Most of the time, these pronouns are used correctly. However, there are instances where they are wrongly used: The first is the use of I and me with another noun or pronoun.

Shall we take a look at the following sentence:

'I and Chris are getting on the bus.'

'I' (and not me) and 'Chris' form the subject of the sentence. This is grammatically correct but to show respect and courtesy, we bring the name of the other person(s) first and 'I' follows. It becomes:

'Chris and I are getting on the bus.'

'The teacher gave the book to Chris and I.' This sentence is grammatically wrong because it should be an object pronoun (since it follows a verb and preposition) but I is not an object pronoun. The correct sentence will be

'The teacher gave the book to Chris and me.'

The next sentence 'Angie and me like coffee': is wrong as well because a subject pronoun is needed, but 'me' is an object pronoun. So the right sentence is

'Angie and I like coffee.'

The second area where pronouns are wrongly used is with possessive pronouns. This is where the pronouns ours, yours, hers and theirs are written with apostrophes. It is grammatically wrong to write: The car is their’s. Instead there should be no apostrophe.

Reflexive pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are formed by adding the suffix '-self' or '-selves' to the basic pronouns: They are myself, oneself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves and themselves.They are used when the subject and object of a verb are the same person or thing in a sentence.

For example in the sentence; 'I look after myself.' ; the subject and object are the same (I and me). To show this relationship, we use the ending '-self' or '-selves'. Another example is; 'We enjoyed ourselves immensely at the festival.

English learners are likely to make mistakes in the use of reflexive pronouns. One can mistakenly say ' The kids have to behave theirselves during the meeting.' The correct word is 'themselves'. Another mistake can be; ‘John bought the present hisself'. It should rather be himself . These errors can be avoided by trying to memorise the actual reflexive pronouns as they do not change. Another mistake when one says :

'Leah and myself are going to clean the room.' or

'Please do well to reply to myself only.' The word 'myself' should not be used in both sentences. This is because the subject and objects of both sentences are not the same. So you will have to replace ‘myself with the correct subject or object: In the first sentence, the pronoun to be used, is replacing the subject of the sentence; so it will 'I'. The second pronoun will replace the object of the sentence, It will be me.

Reflexive pronouns are sometimes used to avoid ambiguity, as well as to lay emphasis. So we can say ‘Tom had done surprisingly well in his exam. The teacher was very pleased with himself (i.e the teacher was pleased with himself as the teacher and not Tom).

Indefinite Pronouns

There are a number of pronouns we can use when we don't want to or are unable to specify exactly what we talking about: They are; all, another, any, anyone, anything, each, everybody, everyone, everything, few, many, no one nobody, none, nothing, one, several, some, somebody and someone. These are called indefinite pronouns. Example of sentences with indefinite pronouns include: ‘I think someone is in the house.’ ; 'You've eaten most of the sweets.' ; and 'There are only a few left.'

The biggest issue with indefinite pronouns is how to determine whether they are singular or plural. Most of them are singular; e.g Neither of the children is able to do the homework.

The few that are plural include; both, many, others and several. All, some, any, most, none and such can be singular or plural. E.g ‘Some of us are ready for the lesson.’ ; ‘Any documents are accepted for the registration.’; OR

Any document is accepted for the registration.’

Demonstrative Pronouns

The demonstrative pronouns are; this, that, these and those. This and that replace singular nouns while these and those replace plural nouns.

In an example; ‘Please take this home with you.’ The word this may be referring to a particular book. In the next;

Those are not good to anybody.’; ‘Those’ may mean those types of food.

Interrogative Pronouns

Now let’s investigate interrogative pronouns: They take the place of a noun in a question. An interrogative pronoun represents the thing that question is about. They are the question words; who, whom, whose, which and what. To give examples, we will find the differences between what and which as well as who and whom.

There are interrogative pronouns that are used for emphasis or to show surprise. They are not really common. They have the suffix '-ever' and they are whoever, whomever, whichever and whatever.

E.g:’ Whoever will want to do such a thing?’ This is asking a question.

You can take whichever one you prefer. This is to stress on any of them you want.

What is used to ask a general question whiles which is used for a specific question. What will you like to drink?’ What is used because there are many types of drinks to choose from.

Which of them will you like to drink?’ Which is used here because there are a few drinks (about two) to choose from. The sentence can also be written as ‘Which one will you like to drink?’ Which is therefore used for limited options of something.

Who and whom ask questions about people. In modern English, ‘who’ is always used in all situations regarding people.. However, to get English grammatically correct, there should be a difference between who and whom. Who is used to question subject pronouns and whom is used to question object pronouns.

Shall we take a look at this sentence;

‘Nadia helped John with his homework. To ask questions on this statement, we can fill in the blank spaces in the sentences below with the question words.

'_____ helped John with his homework?'

'_____ did Nadia help with homework?'

The answer to this question is the object of the sentence. So the question word should be an object question word and that is ‘whom’.

Whose is used to ask about a person who owns something or something belongs to.

Relative Pronouns

Relative pronoun comes after a noun and it is to introduce subordinate clauses that identify or tell more about the noun that precedes it. They are who, what, whom, that, whose,and which. Relative pronouns can be used in 3 different cases: Subjective; objective; or possessive case.