1. Pronouns and their function

1.1 A Pronoun is a word used in place of a noun . We use a pronoun when we do not want to repeat a noun in a sentence or in a longer piece of writing.
   Ali told me Ali was going to Dhaka.
   Ali told me he was going to Dhaka.

The pronoun he in the second sentence helps us to avoid repetition of the noun Ali.

   Ali is an intelligent boy. Ali studies with me. Ali lives in the street next to  
   Mine. Ali and I often play together.

The repetition of the noun Ali can be avoided by using a pronoun in its place. We could say,
    Ali is an intelligent boy. He studies with me.  He lives in the street next to  
   Mine. He and I often play together.

1.2 A pronoun can be used in place of a noun phrase, a noun clause and a whole sentence.

   He talks in a funny way. I do not like it. ( The pronoun it replaces the noun phrase a funny way.)
    We don’t know where they have gone. We don’t really know it. (The
    Pronoun it replaces the clause where they have gone.)
    The rains have failed. It means famine. (The pronoun it here stands for
    The sentence, The rains have failed.)

2. Pronouns: Kinds.

    I. Personal Pronoun.
    II. Relative Pronouns.
    III. Demonstrative Pronouns.
    IV. Interrogative Pronouns.

2.1 Personal pronouns stand for three persons , i.e., First Person, Second Person, Third Person.

The table below gives personal pronouns in their different forms.

Possessive Pronoun




2.1. Use of Personal Pronouns

a) As Subject  
    I cannot eat all this food.
    You should run faster.
    They jumped over the wall. 

b) As Object
     Ali knows me.
     The boy soon found it.
     The good old lady still remembers them.

c) As possessive Adjective
     The employers were satisfied with our performance.
     This is my book.

d) Possessive pronouns.

    This shirt is mine.
    This school is ours.

  Let us examine the use of possessive pronouns to avoid repetition.

This does not look like your pen.
It must be her pen. (possessive Adjective)
It must be hers. (possessive pronoun)

Is that your car?
No, it is their car. (possessive Adjective)
No, it is theirs.  (possessive pronoun)

2.2. Reflexive Pronouns
Reflexive Pronouns are forms of personal pronouns.
They are : myself, ourselves, yourselves, himself, herself, itself., themselves, oneself.
These pronouns are used in two ways:

2.2.1. for emphasis.
      I saw him.
      I myself saw him.
The second sentence is more emphatic. It is the use of myself which make it emphatic.
Other Examples:
   Mary herself cleaned the room.
   We ourselves made this machine.
   The machine itself stopped.

The emphatic pronoun can be placed in another position also.
       Mary cleaned the room herself.
      We made this machine ourselves.

2.2.2. As object of the verb. This use shows what a person or thing does to himself or itself.

 The child hid itself under the sofa.
 I satisfied myself about the prices.
 He cut himself.


3.1 Demonstrative Pronouns are used to refer objects mentioned earlier or which are already present in the speaker’s mind.
These are: this, that, these, those, such, one.

   Is this your book? (This stands for this book.)
   That was my father. (That stands for my father.)
   These are lovely flowers.( These stands for these lovely flowers.)
   Those are our dogs. (those stands for our dogs)
   I have failed again. Such is my luck. (Such stands for I have failed again.)

3.2 Difference between demonstrative pronouns and demonstrative adjectives :
     This is my pen.
     This pen is mine.

This in the first sentence stands for this pen and is therefore a demonstrative pronoun. In the second sentence, this qualifies the noun pen and is therefore, a demonstrative adjective.

NOTE: This and these refer to persons or things away from the speaker, that and those refer to persons or things away from the speaker.

3.3. Indefinite (demonstrative) pronouns. These pronouns do not stand for any particular person or thing. They refer to persons or things in a general way. These are:some, somebody, someone, any,anybody, anyone, all, none, nobody, no one, few, a few, little, a little, many, much, several, the other, others, another, both.

    Someone has come to see you. (we do not know who this person is.)
     You have plenty of ice-cream. Give some to your brother. (Here the word some does not specify the quantity.)

3.4. Reciprocal Pronouns. Reciprocal Pronouns express mutual relationships.

   The two friends help each other.
   The villagers helped one another during the floods.

[Each other shows relationships between two persons, one another between more than two.]  


Look at these sentences:
     This is the house. I lived in this house two years ago.

We can combine these two sentences and say,
     This is the house in which I lived two years ago.

The word which refers to the house and it joins the two sentences given above. Which is a relative Pronoun here.

A Relative Pronoun therefore is a joining pronoun.
The relative pronouns are: who, which, whom, whose, that.

   I know the boy who broke the window pane.
   The book which I bought yesterday cost me taka 25.
   That is the boy whom we met at our uncle’s place.
   The girl, whose pen you borrowed, has come to asked for it.
   The magazine that you lent me yesterday is very dull.

Use of who, which, whom:

Who is generally used for human beings but sometimes for pet animals also.
     We had to take Tom, who had been barking all night inside.

Whose is used for human beings but sometimes for things without life also. Whose must be followed by a noun.
         It is a problem whose solution I don’t know.
         It is a problem of which I I don’t know the solution.

Whom is also used for human beings and sometimes for pet animals.

Use of which:
Which is used for animals and for inanimate things.

    The time which is lost is lost for ever.
    The dog which I bought yesterday is an Alsatian.

Which can also refer to a clause.
          He ran ten miles in an hour, which is creditable.
          (Here which refers to the entire clause, He ran ten miles in an hour.)

Use of that:

(a)  That can be used for persons and things both.
       It is often used instead of who, whom, which but never in place of whose.
       He is the man that (=who) has won the race.
       The thief that (=whom) the police were looking for has been caught.
       The pen that (=which) I bought yesterday is not working properly.

(b) That is used after the adjectives in the superlative degree.
        George is the finest man that I have ever met.
        This is the least that you can do for him.

(c ) That is used after the words all, same, none, only.
        All that glitters is not gold.
       He is not the same friend that he was.
       There is none among us that can compare with him.
       Man is the only animal that can think.

Dropping the relative pronoun:

Look at these sentences.
     This is the purse that I found on the road.

Here the purse is complement to the verb is . We can drop that here.
     This is the purse I found on the road.

   George liked the present which I gave him.

Here the present is object to the verb liked. Here to we can drop the relative pronoun which.
    George liked the present I gave him.

But a relative pronoun cannot be dropped when it follows a preposition.
    This is the school in which I study.

Use of what as relative pronoun: As a relative pronoun what means that which.
       This is what (=that which)  I say.
       What (=that which) you have said is not clear.

Use of ‘as’ as a relative pronoun. This is done in a phrase like such as.

       Boys such as these will never pass.
       This is a sight such as I have never seen before.


Defining relative clause : A defining relative clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence as a whole.
   The girl whom you wanted to marry has married someone else.

In the above sentence if you leave out the defining clause , that is whom you wanted to marry, the meaning is not clear. The girl--- which girl? The relative clause answers the question. Defining relative clauses are never preceded by a comma. This sentence is preferably written with the relative pronoun left out.

   The girl you wanted to marry has married someone else.

Non-defining relative clause: The non-defining relative clause provides additional information and if left out does not affect the essential meaning of the sentence.

Compare the two sentences below:

    The girl you met yesterday wants to speak to you.
    My sister Alice , whom you met yesterday, wants to speak to you.

In the first sentence the relative clause you met yesterday tells who the girl is. The sentence would be incomplete in meaning without this clause.
In the second sentence , we know the girl’s identity and the clause whom you met yesterday provides us only additional information. It is, therefore, a non –defining relative clause.
A non-defining relative clause is always marked off from the rest of the sentence by commas before and after it.

   Her father, who went to London, has just come back.
   My friend, who is a doctor, does not believe in black magic.

The relative pronoun used in a non-defining clause cannot be dropped. Also, we cannot use that as a relative pronoun in a non defining clause.


Interrogative pronouns are used for persons or things about which questions are asked.
They are : what, who, whom, which, whose.

Use of what as subject:
     What happened at the meeting?
     What is floating in the river?

Here what can be replaced by a subject,
     Nothing happened at the meeting.
     A bright object is floating in the river.

Use of what as object:
     What did she say?
     What do you want?

Here what can be replaced by an object.
   She said a few words.
    I want my money.

Use of who as subject
  Who told you that?
Who can be replaced by a subject.

Ali told me that.

Use of whom.

Whom do you want to see?

Whom can be replaced by an object.

 I want to see the manager.

Note: Modern English prefers the use of who in place of whom.

  Who do you want to see?

Use of which as subject

    Which is your house?
    Which is the largest city in Bangladesh.?

Use of which as object

    Which do you like more tea or coffee?
    Which of these is your bag?

Use of whose:
Whose is used to refer to a possessive.
     Whose is that pen?
     Whose can this umbrella be?

Interrogative pronouns can be used to ask indirect questions.
     He asked me what I wanted.
     My father asked me who had come in his absence.

Interrogative Pronouns are often used to combine two questions.
    Do you know where the library is?
    Can you tell me where I can find the Principal?


It is a third person singular pronoun and is used for lifeless things, animals, and for a baby or a small child when its sex is unknown or unimportant.

As subject:

This necklace is very costly.
It is made of gold.

As object:

Diamond is the hardest substance.
Even steel cannot cut it.

As possessive adjective:

The snake has gone back to its hole.

1. It has no Possessive Pronoun form.
For example, you can say
    This is its hole.
But you cannot say,
   This hole is its.

2. The possessive form of it is its and is not to be confused with it’s which is a contraction of it is.

    It is my bag.
This can also be written as:
   It’s my bag.

As a rule pronouns do not form possessives by adding  -‘s.
    This bag is yours. (not *your’s)
    This purse is hers (not *her’s)

Other uses of it:

a) It is used for expressing time, Distance, Weather, Temperature etc.

   It is 5’o clock now.
   It is Tuesday.
   It is 20 kilometres.
   It is cold today.

b) It is used to introduce an infinitive phrase.

  It is easy to please him.
  It is necessary to go there.

c) It is used to introduce –ing form.

   It is no use crying over spilt milk.
   It is no use reading this book now.

d) It is used to introduce a clause.

  It is strange that he has failed again.
  It is not known why he suddenly left his job.

e) It is used as meaningless subject for impersonal verbs.
   It seems he is mad.
   It appears that Ali has missed his train.

f) It is used to emphasize part of a sentence.
   You spoiled the show.
    It was you who spoiled the show.


i)  One is used in such expressions.
      The Holy One (=God)
      The Evil One (=Satan)
      Little ones (=Children)

ii)  One is used as an indefinite pronoun. Its possessive form is one’s.
     One must listen carefully before speaking .
     One cannot get everything that one wants.

Use of one and ones for countable and uncountable nouns.

This is the dress I Like most.= This is the one I like most.

These are the dresses I like most.= These are ones I like most.

Exercises: Pronouns

 Replace the words in bold type by pronouns.

  1. My sister told me an interesting story.
  2. My sister and I told a story to our little brother.
  3. Let the baby play.
  4. Alice give a cake to me and my five friends
  5. Ask the students.
  6. The lion caught the deer.
  7. Tell George and Alice the answer.

Complete the following sentences with the correct pronoun.

1.      I helped (him/his).
2.      We know all about (you/your).
3.      They carried the luggage (them/themselves).
4.      She could not read (his/her) own handwriting.
5.      They came and met (we/us) at the station.
6.      Here are some letters for you and (me/I).

Complete the following sentences with the correct pronoun.

  1. Let (they/ them)do what they like.
  2. There was an agreement between (her/she) qand(me/I).
  3. Let (it/its) remain here.
  4. They le6t (me/I) do what (I/me) liked.
  5. They should let (you/your)stay here.
  6. There was a long conversation between John and (I/me).

Fill in the blanks with the correct possessive pronoun, or adjective.

  1. Is this your bag, Which is …..? (my/mine)
  2. … the prettiest dress.(her/hers).
  3. You go…. Way. I go mine.(you/your)
  4. Is this umbrella ….. or….?(her/hers: you/yours)
  5. This is ….cycle and that is …..(my/mine: her/hers)
  6. She is a sister of ……..(me/mine)
  7. A friend of …… has gone abroad (our/ours)
  8. Our roads are better than ….. (their/theirs)

Rewrite the following sentences using an emphatic pronoun.

  1. Students should do their home-work.. No one shall do it for them.
  2. Let us meet the Prime Minister. We need to see any one else.
  3. The watchman robbed the bank. No outsider did it.
  4. George repaired his car. No one else repaired it for him.
  5. John drove the car. No one else drove it.

Insert the correct Reflexive Pronoun in the following sentences.

  1. George hurt with a knife.
  2. Let us avail of the opportunity.
  3. All of them absented from the meeting.
  4. Alice burnt while boiling milk.
  5. The baby cried to sleep.

Use the correct Relative Pronoun, who, which, whom, whose, what, or that.

  1. He is the man …. Ran away with your purse.
  2. The car …… I bought a month ago is still out of order.
  3. These are the children ….parents have died in the earthquake.
  4. Don’t listen to ….. he say.
  5. It is difficult to decide …… we should give this prize to.
  6. My mother didn’t like the college……. I had chosen.
  7. God helps those …. help themselves.

Fill in the blanks with correct interrogative pronouns: what, who, whose, whom, which:

  1. …….. is the house?
  2. ………was your result?
  3. ………do you want to meet?
  4. ……….of these two girls would you like to marry?
  5. ……….made you go to him?
  6. ………shirt are you wearing?
  7. ……..wants dinner?
  8. …… your car?
  9. For……..was she waiting?

Add relative pronoun where necessary.

  1. The woman …. You spoke to on the road is my French teacher.
  2. What was the book ….you were reading yesterday?
  3. Where is the man …..cheated my wife?
  4. This is the boy…… money has been stolen.
  5. This is the kind of music ….I like most.
  6. This is exactly …… I wanted.
  7. This is the dish ….. I don’t like at all.

Combine the following pairs of sentences using defining clauses.

1.      The lady has gone to Addis Ababa. She was here yesterday.
2.      The storybook is very interesting. You lent lt to me yesterday.
3.      The old woman has just died. She lived next door.
4.      The boy is my fast friend. You spoke to him yesterday.
5.      The author has died. I am reading his book.

Fill in the blanks from among the pronouns of number and quantity: much, all, many, most, several, few, a few, little, a little.

  1. I can still find …. who are honest.
  2. We didn’t eat ….. at lunch.
  3. I have read …. Of Shakespeare’s plays. I will read the others soon.
  4. We enjoyed the mangoes very much but ….were rotten.
  5. …… of us have to work hard.
  6. I have read …..of his detective stories but not all.
  7. I asked him about interesting places in the city. But he didn’t know….
  8. You may be right but ….will agree with you.
  9. You have so much money. Can’t you give …..of it to your brother?
  10. My wife likes flowers. Please give me ……
  11. I can’t speak on this subject. I know ….. about it.

Combine the following pairs of sentences by using non-defining relative pronouns.

  1. Socrates was a Greek philosopher. He lived about 2600 years ago.
  2. Mr. George has gone to Zambia. He is our neighbour.
  3. World War II destroyed most of Germany and Japan. It broke out in 1939.
  4. Cleopatra was the greatest queen of Egypt. She was very beautiful.
  5. My father has become the chairman of the company. He is forty-six now.
  6. My teacher Mr. William is coming to dinner. You saw him yesterday.
  7. My husband has sent me a present on my birthday. He is in England.
  8. I have two brothers. They work in a government office.
  9. My neighbour Mr. Wilson’s wife has just has had her eighth baby. She has been married for nine years.

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