Pronouns : Relative Pronouns

Relative Pronouns

 A relative pronoun is a pronoun that introduces an adjective clause.

In English, the relative pronouns are thatwhich, where, who, whomwhose.

  • Who and whom refer to people.
  • Which refers to things.
  • That and whose refer to people or things.

A relative pronoun is used to start an adjectival clause which describes a noun (also called a relative clause.).

The description comes after the noun to either identify it or give more information about it…

Identifying the noun
  • The man who invented zips became very rich.
  • I recognised  the car which was involved in the accident.
  • We did not see the dog that attacked our rabbit.

Be aware that a fair proportion of your readers will not like you using that for people. It is good advice to avoid using that for people, especially in formal writing.

Note : colloquially, that is often used to represent a person or people and who is used to represent an animal or animals; though neither is technically correct they seem to be commonly accepted… one for the Grammar Nazis, eh?

 Providing more information
  • My friend, whose birthday it is, will meet us at the cinema.
  • My dad’s car, which was covered in mud, was parked outside the house.
  • The elephant that was the biggest led the parade.
Who or whom?

The use who or whom depends upon whether the noun that is being replaces is the subject or the object of the verb. If the replaced noun is the subject of the sentence then we use who

  • The child who came first won a trophy.
  • The girl who was the teacher’s favourite was allowed out to play early.

if the replaced noun is the object of the sentence we use whom

  • The panel selected a winner, to whom they awarded the £5000 prize.
  • Phillip was the boy whom my mum really disliked.

Pronouns : Reciprocal Pronouns

Reciprocal Pronouns

A reciprocal pronoun expresses a mutual action or relationship. The reciprocal pronouns are: each other and one another:

Here are some examples of reciprocal pronouns:

  • The cat and dog hate each other.
  • After they lost the players started fighting with one another.
  • The bride and groom made vows to each other.
  • The boys had exactly the same answers but swore they had not seen each other’s papers.
Each other or one another?

Here’s the quick answer: If the total number of those involved is two animals, people, things or any combination then use each other.

If the total number of those involved is more than two, then useuse one another.

(The ‘posh’ word for those involved is antecedents – i.e. those that have gone before)

  • The cat and dog hate each other.
  • Red wine and cheese complement each other.

In the above examples, the antecedent is two things so we use each other as the reciprocal pronoun.

When the antecedent is three or more things, use one another:

  • There must have been at least a dozen dogs howling at one another.
  • As the clock struck midnight the crowd wished one another Happy New Year.
Each other’s and one another’s NEVER Each others’ and one anothers’

The pronouns each other and one another are treated as singular entities – weird I know,  but there it is. So, to show possession, the apostrophe always comes before the final s.

This is not negotiable it is an absolute rule.

  • Dad and uncle Joe were jealous of each other’s cars.
  • All the monkeys at the zoo were picking insects from one another’s hairy backs.

If one of the children ever picks you up for using the wrong reciprocal pronoun, high five your TA, break out the brandy and cigars, your work is done… 😀

Pronouns : Indefinite Pronouns

Pronouns : Indefinite Pronouns

Like any other pronoun, indefinite pronouns are used to replace nouns

An indefinite pronoun refers to a non-specific person or object.

The indefinite pronouns in most common use are:  all, any, anyone, anything, each, everybody, everyone, everything, few, many, nobody, none, one, several, some, somebody, and someone.

  • To be happy and is something that everybody wants.
  • Everything comes to he who waits.
  • Nothing happened when I turned the light out.
  • Anything is better than nothing.
  • The few were sacrificed for the benefit of the many.

Again, many of these words can be used as adjectives to modify nouns, it’s tricky…

When a word like some, many or each is used as an adjective, it is known as an indefinite adjective.

  • All can benefit from the new technology. – indefinite pronoun
  • All children enjoy playing on the swings at that park. – indefinite adjective (modifies children)
  • Many find themselves wondering how to survive in the modern world. – indefinite pronoun
  • Many hands make light work.- indefinite adjective (modifies hands)

One of the problems with the use of indefinite pronouns is to know whether they are singular or plural. Below is a table containing many of the most common indefinite pronouns and indicathing whether they are singular or plural

Singular Indefinite Pronouns Plural Indefinite Pronouns Indefinite Pronouns
(Can be Singular or Plural)

Pronouns : Interrogative Pronouns

Pronouns : Interrogative Pronouns

 Interrogative pronouns represent a person or an object that is the focus of a question

Some examples of the main words interrogative pronouns are words such as: who, whom, whose, whichwhat, whoever, whomever, whichever, and whatever.

  • What is it?
  • Whom shall we say is calling?
  • Whose did the judges select for the prize?
  • Which is the best?
  • Who needs a cup of tea?
  • Whatever did you do to upset you sister?
  • Whoever wants keep a snake as a pet?

But be careful… 

Some of these words can be interrogative adjectives.

  • Which camera is the most expensive?
  • What car would you like to drive if you had the choice?

In these cases ‘which’ modifies the noun camera and ‘what’ modifies the noun ‘car’ so these words are adjectives not pronouns…

Tricky, eh? Luckily this is not a distinction that a pupil of primary school age is ever likely to have to make!

Pronouns : Demonstrative Pronouns

Pronouns : Demonstrative Pronouns

As with all pronouns, demonstrative pronouns replace nouns.

Demonstrative pronouns are used to replace nouns (people or objects) that have been previously mentioned to that the listener/reader can understand from the context of the conversation/text.

The demonstrative pronouns are this, that, these, and those.

A demonstrative pronoun used in context enables us to tell whether the noun it replaces is something singular or plural and whether that thing(s) is/are close at hand or at some distance.

This and that replace singular nouns.

This represents something close at hand:

  • This is very pretty.

That represents something further away:

  • That is massive!
These and those replace plural nouns.

These represents something close by:

  • These look delicious.

Those represents something further away:

  • Don’t buy those.

This, that, these, and those can also be Demonstrative Adjectives, which modify nouns or pronouns.

In this situation they cannot stand alone or replace a noun but rather indicate exactly which noun is being considered:

  • This milk is out of date.
  • That dog is in a sorry state.
  • Those oranges are very juicy.
  • These pencils all beed to be sharpened.


Pronouns : Personal Pronouns

All about personal pronouns.

All children use pronouns without even thinking.

The important thing is that they recognise the words in the table below as being pronouns and not particularly that they know all the jargon and the technical, grammar nerd differences between them.

Personal pronouns are used to represent people or objects, animals, etc. The personal pronouns are: I, you, he, she, it, we and they.

Native English speakers will get the right personal pronoun without thinking but we all select a personal pronoun having automatically considered the following:

  • Number – is the personal pronoun representing something singular or plural.
  • Person – Is the personal pronoun representing something in the first, second or third person
  • Gender – is the personal pronoun representing something male, female, or without any gender.
  • Case – is the personal pronoun representing something which is a subject or an object?
The Personal Pronouns and Their Possessive Versions
Person Subjective Case Objective Case Possessive Case
Absolute Possessive Pronouns
Possessive Case
Possessive Adjective
First Person Singular I me mine my
Second Person Singular you you yours your
Third Person Singular he she it him her it his hers its his her its
First Person Plural we us ours our
Second Person Plural you you yours your
Third Person Plural they them theirs their
Subjective Personal Pronouns

The pronouns in the list above which are the pronouns we use  for the subjects of verbs. They are I, you, he, she, it, we and they.

He is silly.
They are going to the cinema

Objective Personal Pronouns

The objective personal pronouns are me, you, him, her, it, us, and them.

These are the versions used when the personal pronouns are objects of verbs:

  • I have never heard of him.
  • Mum gave them some sandwiches.
  • Suzanne had a dog and took it to school.
Possessive Case Absolute Possessive Pronouns

These are : my, your, his, hers, its, our and their.

  • You can’t borrow that pen because it’s mine.
  • I cant find mobile can I borrow yours?
  • My sister’s house is bigger than ours.
Possessive Case Possessive Adjectives

Obviously these are adjectives not pronouns but I include them hare cos it’s related and it feels right that I should:

  • Have you seen my cat?
  • Every dog has its day.
  • Dad gave the children their tea because mum was out.
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