Pronouns may reference specific and nonspecific things. For this reason, most scholars have termed them as understudies of English Grammar.
In this post, we explain what these words are, how to use them in sentences, what they do and mean in academic writing, and give examples.
Pronouns represent nouns, helping you to refrain from repeating the same words. They may refer to people, places, and concepts.
A personal pronoun could refer to you, the people you are addressing, or other things.1 Speak with your tutor because some academic writing styles encourage the use of these words while others do not.
Using pronouns in a sentence
The function of a pronoun is to replace the noun, but you can use it as a direct or indirect object in a sentence.
A direct object is someone or something that a verb acts on, while an indirect object is something or someone receiving the direct object.
The antecedents of pronouns
These are noun replacements used before or after a pronoun. The antecedent may also be something the person you are talking to said.
Always ensure that the antecedent is evident, or you may need to use the actual noun for clarity.
Pronouns vs. nouns
While pronouns are a relatively small class of words, they do not change over time, unlike the broader class of nouns that are constantly expanding. As nouns, pronouns refer to people, things, concepts, and places; however, nouns do so in greater specificity.
Both are similar to objects or subjects of a verb and heads in noun phrases. A complete sentence may look like “Joan ate,” just like when saying “she ate.”
However, nouns have fixed forms, so they never change spellings depending on grammatical roles in a sentence.
Pronouns vs. determiners
Determiners modify the words or noun phrases and do not act as objects or subjects. In contrast, pronouns stand on their own as objects or subjects.
Still, the two are closely related because a possessive pronoun like “yours,” closely relates to a determiner like “your,” while demonstrative pronouns like “that” are similar to demonstrative determiners.
These words refer to yourself, someone you are addressing, or other things and people, and they may change their form depending on the following:
- Person (first-, second-, or third-person)
- Number (singular or plural)
- Case (subject possessive, object, or reflexive)
- Gender (feminine, epicene, masculine, or neuter)
You can use the impersonal pronoun “it” in general statements referring to no particular person.
These introduce questions; either on their own or get help from other interrogative words. They include:
- Which and what (asks about things)
- Whose (asks ownership)
- Who and whom (asks about people)
The four types include:
They indicate something you mentioned previously, clear from the context, or in a conversation.
These words refer to unspecific things or people.
Many of these are created by a combination of:
- any-, or no- with -thing
- -one, or -body
Some describe quantity, like
These words introduce relative clauses, phrases that say more about the preceding noun. They include:
To show relation to things
- Which(ever), what(ever), and that
To show relation to people
- Who(ever) and whom(ever)
To indicate ownership
These words describe two things or people that perform actions relative to the other; they include one another and each other.
Dummy pronouns (expletives)
A dummy or expletive pronoun does not contain explicit meaning but is necessary to the sentence structure.2 They include there and it.
Use them to emphasize certain elements in sentences, talk about the weather, or introduce the existence of something.
First-person is popular in some academic disciplines, while others prohibit its use.
Academic writing styles like APA and Harvard encourage the use.3
You may refer to yourself in the third person in some academic papers. Writing styles like APA accept the first-person description of yourself.
No. You cannot use these words as such essays require a formal tone.
1 LearnEnglish. “Personal Pronouns.” March 23, 2022. https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/english-grammar-reference/personal-pronouns.
2 Academic Writing in English. “Dummy Pronouns.” Lund University. https://www.awelu.lu.se/language/selective-mini-grammar/pronouns/dummy-pronouns/.
3 American Psychological Association. “First-Person Pronouns.” Accessed December 12, 2022. https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/grammar/first-person-pronouns.