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Pronouns are substitutes for nouns. They are labor saving devices. We could say everything which we need to say without them, but at the expense of much repetition of longer words. A child often says "John wants Henry's ball" instead of "I want your ball." Constant remembrance of this simple fact, that a pronoun is only a substitute for a noun, is really about all that is needed to secure correct usage after the pronouns themselves have once become familiar. A construction which appears doubtful can often be decided by substituting nouns for pronouns and vice versa.

A very common error is the use of the plural possessive pronouns with the words any, every, each, somebody, everybody, and nobody, all of which are always singular.

We could accomplish this if every one would do their part.

is wrong. It should be

We could accomplish this if every one would do his part.


Another common mistake is the confusion of the nominative and objective cases in objective clauses where two pronouns or a noun and a pronoun occur.

All this was done for you and I.

is a very common but entirely inexcusable mistake. One would hardly think of saying

"All this was done for I."
I saw John and he leaving the shop.

is almost equally common and quite equally bad. Do not allow yourself to be confused by a double object.

In general great care should be taken to avoid ambiguity in the use of pronouns. It is very easy to multiply and combine pronouns in such a way that while grammatical rules may not be broken the reader may be left hopelessly confused. Such ambiguous sentences should be cleared up, either by a rearrangement of the words or by substitution of nouns for some of the pronouns.


Like nouns, the Personal Pronouns have number, gender and case. The gender of the first and second person is obvious, as they represent the person or persons speaking and those who are addressed. The personal pronouns are thus declined:

First Person.
M. or F.

<table summary="" border="1"> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <tbody><tr> <td>
</td> <th>Sing.</th> <th>Plural.</th></tr> <tr> <td>N.</td> <td>I</td> <td>We</td></tr> <tr> <td>P.</td> <td>Mine</td> <td>Ours</td></tr> <tr> <td>O.</td> <td>Me</td> <td>Us</td></tr></tbody></table>

Second Person.
M. or F.

<table summary="" border="1"> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <tbody><tr> <td>
</td> <th>Sing.</th> <th>Plural.</th></tr> <tr> <td>N.</td> <td>Thou</td> <td>You</td></tr> <tr> <td>P.</td> <td>Thine</td> <td>Yours</td></tr> <tr> <td>O.</td> <td>Thee</td> <td>You</td></tr></tbody></table>

Third Person.

<table summary="" border="1"> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <tbody><tr> <td>
</td> <th>Sing.</th> <th>Plural.</th></tr> <tr> <td>N.</td> <td>He</td> <td>They</td></tr> <tr> <td>P.</td> <td>His</td> <td>Theirs</td></tr> <tr> <td>O.</td> <td>Him</td> <td>Them</td></tr></tbody></table>

Third Person.

<table summary="" border="1"> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <tbody><tr> <td>
</td> <th>Sing.</th> <th>Plural.</th></tr> <tr> <td>N.</td> <td>She</td> <td>They</td></tr> <tr> <td>P.</td> <td>Hers</td> <td>Theirs</td></tr> <tr> <td>O.</td> <td>Her</td> <td>Them</td></tr></tbody></table>

Third Person.

<table summary="" border="1"> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <tbody><tr> <td>
</td> <th>Sing.</th> <th>Plural.</th></tr> <tr> <td>N.</td> <td>It</td> <td>They</td></tr> <tr> <td>P.</td> <td>Its</td> <td>Theirs</td></tr> <tr> <td>O.</td> <td>It</td> <td>Them</td></tr></tbody></table>

N. B.—In colloquial language and ordinary writing Thou, Thine and Thee are seldom used, except by the Society of Friends. The Plural form You is used for both the nominative and objective singular in the second person and Yours is generally used in the possessive in place of Thine.

The Relative Pronouns are so called because they relate to some word or phrase going before; as, "The boy who told the truth;" "He has done well, which gives me great pleasure."

Here who and which are not only used in place of other words, but who refers immediately to boy, and which to the circumstance of his having done well.

The word or clause to which a relative pronoun refers is called the Antecedent.

The Relative Pronouns are who, which, that and what.

Who is applied to persons only; as, "The man who was here."

Which is applied to the lower animals and things without life; as, "The horse which I sold." "The hat which I bought."

That is applied to both persons and things; as, "The friend that helps." "The bird that sings." "The knife that cuts."

What is a compound relative, including both the antecedent and the relative and is equivalent to that which; as, "I did what he desired," i. e. "I did that which he desired."

Relative pronouns have the singular and plural alike.

Who is either masculine or feminine; which and that are masculine, feminine or neuter; what as a relative pronoun is always neuter.

That and what are not inflected.

Who and which are thus declined:

<table summary="" border="1"> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <colgroup align="center"></colgroup> <tbody><tr> <th colspan="2">Sing. and Plural</th> <th>
</th> <th colspan="2">Sing. and Plural</th></tr> <tr> <td>N.</td> <td>Who</td> <td>
</td> <td>N.</td> <td>Which</td></tr> <tr> <td>P.</td> <td>Whose</td> <td>
</td> <td>P.</td> <td>Whose</td></tr> <tr> <td>O.</td> <td>Whom</td> <td>
</td> <td>O.</td> <td>Which</td></tr></tbody></table>

Who, which and what when used to ask questions are called Interrogative Pronouns.

Adjective Pronouns partake of the nature of adjectives and pronouns and are subdivided as follows:

Demonstrative Adjective Pronouns which directly point out the person or object. They are this, that with their plurals these, those, and yon, same and selfsame.

Distributive Adjective Pronouns used distributively. They are each, every, either, neither.

Indefinite Adjective Pronouns used more or less indefinitely. They are any, all, few, some, several, one, other, another, none.

Possessive Adjective Pronouns denoting possession. They are my, thy, his, her, its, our, your, their.

N. B.—(The possessive adjective pronouns differ from the possessive case of the personal pronouns in that the latter can stand alone while the former cannot. "Who owns that book?" "It is mine." You cannot say "it is my,"—the word book must be repeated.)