The workings of the 7 other types of English pronouns


IN the preceding two columns we showed how nouns in English don’t inflect or change form at all in the nominative or subjective and objective cases, in contrast to the personal pronouns, which typically make marked inflections for case depending on person, number, and gender. This time we’ll round up this grammar refresher by taking up the workings of the seven other types of pronouns, namely the demonstrative pronouns, indefinite pronouns, interrogative pronouns, reciprocal pronouns, relative pronouns, and reflexive and intensive pronouns.

Demonstrative pronouns: There are four demonstrative pronouns—“this,” “these,” “that,” and “those”—for pointing to a thing or things not specifically identified or named.

“This” is used for a singular object that’s near in distance or time, as in “This tastes really good” (place proximity) and “This is a turning point in our history” (time proximity); and “these” for a plural object that’s near in distance or time, as in “These are fine with me” (place proximity) and “These are disturbing developments” (time proximity).

“That” is used for a singular object that’s far or out of the speaker’s immediate reach, as in “That isn’t mounted properly” and “That happened a long way back”; and “those” for a plural object that’s far or out of the speaker’s immediate reach, as “Those are legally yours” and “Those were crucial to our nationhood.”

Just remember that the usages above apply only when the demonstrative pronoun is a stand-alone subject. When used to modify a noun, it becomes a demonstrative adjective instead, as in “This coffee tastes really good.”

Indefinite pronouns: These are used to refer to a person, thing, or amount not by proper name or specific designation: “all,” “another,” “any,” “anybody”/“anyone,” “anything,” “each,” “everybody”/“everyone,” “everything,” “few,” “many,” “nobody,” “none,” “one,” “several,” “some,” and “somebody”/“someone.”

By now they should all be familiar to us, so I’ll no longer give specific usage examples for each. I’ll just emphasize that like all nouns, most of the indefinite pronouns (a) don’t inflect or change form for the nominative or subjective and objective cases, as in “Anyone can join the game” (nominative “anyone”) and “She’ll fight anyone” (objective “anyone”), and (b) inflect only in the possessive case by affixing the apostrophe-“s”, as in “The jackpot prize tonight could be anyone’s.”

Also, most of the indefinite pronouns, like “one” and “everybody,” become indefinite adjectives when used to premodify a noun, as in “One man fought everybody else for her affections.”

Interrogative pronouns: To ask a question, we can use “who,” “whom,” “what,” “which,” “whoever,” “whichever,” or “whatever” to represent the person, place, or thing that we don’t know or are asking the question about, as in “Who thought of that great idea?”

Reciprocal pronouns: We use either “each other” and “one another” in sentences where each of the subjects is acting in the same way towards the other, as in “The strangers liked each other at first sight” (two subjects) and “The five teams played against one another round-robin” (three or more subjects).

Relative pronouns: To allow a sentence to carry more information, we can use “who,” “whom,” “whose,” “which,” or “that” to connect or “relate” a subordinate clause to a noun or pronoun in the main clause, as in “The town honored the fisherman who saved the boy from drowning” and “Marsala is the color that I like best.”

Reflexive and intensive pronouns. There are eight of them—the singular “myself,” “yourself,” “himself,” “herself,” and “itself” and the plural “ourselves,” “yourselves,” and “themselves.” We can use exactly the same pronouns to either (a) refer back to the subject of the sentence or antecedent clause, as in “God helps only those who help themselves, or (b) to emphasize the antecedent noun, as in “The townsfolk themselves built the farm-to-market road.”

This ends our three-part refresher on nouns and pronouns.

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  1. Thanks. A good refresher course on pronouns. I would like read more about prepositions.

    Thanks again.