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A pronoun is a noun with a specific type of reference, but without a fixed referent. For example, "I" means specifically the person speaking, which is true whoever happens to be speaking, but the actual person "I" refers to depends on context.

Kinds of Pronouns

  • personal pronouns: I, you, we
  • possessive pronouns: mine, yours, ours (as opposed to possessive adjectives: my, your, our)
  • demonstrative pronouns: this, that, those (as opposed to demonstrative adjectives: this car, that house, those people).
  • reflexive pronouns: myself, herself, themselves
  • relative pronouns: that, which, who
  • interogative pronouns: who, when, what
  • indefinite pronouns: some, a few, many

Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns are most commonly used to replace proper nouns. If you imagine a sentence without pronouns, it could sound cluttered.Compare these two sentences:

I saw John today and asked John if John prefers sugar in John's tea.
I saw John today and asked him if he prefers sugar in his tea.

The latter sounds much more natural. But notice that there are 3 different forms relating to John. The first, him is objective or accusative form, since John is the object of the verb ask. The second is nominative, since if introduces a new clause, therefore John is the subject, and the third, his is simply possessive.

Many personal pronouns change their form according to where they are in the sentence, commonly known as Case. This differs from language to language. However, some retain their form no matter where. A good comparison is the pronoun you, in German (familiar form) and English:

  • Nominative/subjective: you-du
  • Accusative/objective: you-dich
  • Dative: to you/dir

Example sentences:

  • You are beautiful. Du bist schön.
  • I saw you. Ich sah dich.
  • I gave it to you. Ich gab es dir.