A pronoun is a word that can replace a noun in a sentence. English has four basic pronouns that can replace a noun. A noun referring to males (man, boy, gentleman) is replaced by he. A noun referring to females (girl, mother, lady) is replaced by she. A noun referring to an inanimate object (house, rock, window) is replaced by it. And all plural nouns (boys, children, rocks) are replaced by they. The pronoun we is the replacement for a noun plus I: Tom and I = we, the girls and I = we.
But the pronouns just given (he, she, it, they, we) are used only as the subject of a sentence. Pronouns have other forms, which are used as objects or possessives.
An independent possessive pronoun is one that replaces a possessive pronoun and a noun. It is independent. It can stand alone.
This one is his book. = This one is his.
Her dress is rather dirty. = Hers is rather dirty.
Its right fender has a dent. = Its has a dent.
Where is their tent? = Where is theirs?
Our brother works in Chicago. = Ours works in Chicago.
Although the pronouns Iand youdo not replace nouns, they follow thesame pattern as the pronouns already shown.
Exercise 1.1 Replace the italicized noun or noun phrase in the following sentences with the appropriate pronoun. Be careful: not all of the italicized nouns are subjects.
- The lawyer stood up slowly and looked at the jury.
- When I saw the girls on the corner, I gave a little wave.
- I knew that the tall woman was our new boss.
- Dr. Brown often wrote about that operation in her diary.
- Their problems were really much worse than mine.
- I truly liked Mr. Johnson’s daughter a lot.
- Robert and I hoped to buy a car together.
- I’d help if Alicia’s brother would help.
- I think that the last two chairs at the table are our chairs.
- You ought to have a few words with that rude man.
Exercise 1.2 Change the italicized possessive noun or noun phrase to the appropriate pronoun.
- The children’s bedroom needs to be painted.
- Have you met Tom’s relatives?
- It looks like the car’s trunk is scratched.
- Why is the magazine’s cover torn off?
- Her aunt is a physician in one of the city’s clinics.
- Her uncle’s neighbor used to work as a gardener.
- The actress’ voice began to crack.
- Was your sister’s husband a carpenter, too?
- Their new apartment is really too small for their family.
- I’d like to see your friends’ new house sometime.
A reflexive pronoun is easily identified by the ending -self for a singular (myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself) and -selves for a plural (ourselves, yourselves, themselves). It is the object acted upon by a pronoun subject of the same form. Look at the following table:
If the subject acts upon an object that is a different pronoun, use an object pronoun. If the subject and object are the same pronoun, use a reflexive pronoun. Look at these examples:
I protect you. I protect him. I protect them. I protect myself. He helps me. He helps her. He helps us. He helps himself
We ask you. We ask him. Weask them.Weaskourselves.
They talk to me. They talk toyou. Theytalk toher.They talk to themselves.
Exercise 2.1 Fill in the blank with the appropriate form of the pronoun shown in parentheses
1. We usually bathe _____________________ in the river. (we)
2. I can’t understand _____________________. (he)
3. I’ve always told _____________________ to be careful. (I)
4. My girlfriend wants to buy _____________________ a new skirt. (she)
5. Did you get these magazines from _____________________? (they)
6. The new boss prides _____________________ on being fair. (he)
7. You both seemed to enjoy _____________________ at the party. (you)
8. The magician’s rope rose up from the ground by _____________________. (it)
9. The animals try to protect _____________________ from the wind. (they)
10. The guard couldn’t protect _____________________ from an attack. (they)
Exercise 2.2 Use the pronouns listed in the following and write three shortsentences:
(a) use the pronoun as a subject,
(b) use the pronoun as a directobject or the object of a preposition, and
(c) use the pronoun as a possessive.
a. He is my friend. (subject)
b. I visit him often. (direct object) This is for him. (object of preposition)
c. His father is a butcher. (possessive)
1. I 2. You (singular) 3. She 4. We 5. They 6. It 7. He 8. You (plural)
- A relative pronoun is a word that does two things: (1) It replaces a noun or pronoun in the sentence. (2) It combines the sentence with a second sentence. Look at the two sentences that follow. The phrase the officer is in both sentences:
The officer saw him speeding. The officer gave him a ticket.
- These two sentences can be combined by changing one of the phrases the officer to a relative pronoun. The English relative pronouns are who or that for people and which or that for things. See how the preceding sentences are changed:
The officer, who saw him speeding, gave him a ticket.
The officer, who gave him a ticket, saw him speeding.
- It is generally a good rule to use a comma before who or which in a relative clause. This is especially true when that clause simply provides additional information about the antecedent. If the clause specifies “which person” or “which thing,” the comma should be omitted. The relative pronoun that can also be used.
The officer that saw him speeding gave him a ticket. or
The officer that gave him a ticket saw him speeding.
- Notice that commas are not used with that. Look at a few more examples:
I like the girl. The girl lives down that street.
I like the girl who lives down that street.
I like the girl that lives down that street.
He said a word. I don’t understand a word.
He said a word, which I don’t understand.
He said a word that I don’t understand.
Where’s the car? You bought the car.
Where’s the car that you bought?
Where’s the car you bought?
- Let’s take a closer look at relative pronouns and the clauses they form. English forms relative clauses in four ways:
(1) With the relative pronoun who or whom, when referring to people.
Who is used as the subject of a sentence. Whom is used in all other cases. Whose replaces a possessive adjective (my, his, our, et cetera).
(2) With the relative pronoun that when referring to people or things.
(3) With the relative pronoun which when referring to things.
(4) By omitting the relative pronoun when it is a direct object or the object of a preposition. This is called an elliptical relative pronoun. (You encountered this in one of the earlier examples: “Where’s the car you bought?”)
- Study the following examples:
That’s the man who stole my briefcase. (subject of the clause)
That’s the man whom we met in Boston. (direct object)
That’s the man whose son is a professional soccer player. (possessive: his son)
Who’s the student that wrote this paper? (person)
I found the ball that was kicked over the fence. (thing)
I found the ball, which was kicked over the fence. (thing)
That’s the man we met in Boston. (elliptical: whom is omitted)
This is the boy I bought the toy for. (elliptical: whom is omitted and the preposition for is placed at the end of the sentence)
Note: in casual language whom is nearly always replaced by who.
You need to be careful when using prepositions with relative pronouns. Their position in a sentence can vary. Look at the following examples, and study how the preposition can be placed.
They bought the house. An old man died in the house.
They bought the house in which an old man died.
They bought the house which an old man died in.
They bought the house that an old man died in.
They bought the house an old man died in.
I visited the man. I got a gift from the man.
I visited the man, from whom I got a gift.
I visited the man who(m) I got a gift from.
I visited the man that I got a gift from.
I visited the man I got a gift from.
Exercise 3.1 Combine the following pairs of sentences by using a relativepronoun.
- We decided to buy the newspaper. The newspaper was printed in London.
- Helena caught a fish. The fish was nearly two feet long.
- Are you going to rent the apartment? William lived in the apartment.
- I have often chatted with the policeman. My father knows the policeman.
- There was a horrible storm. The storm destroyed many trees.
- We’re going to the beach. My grandparents live near the beach.
- May I have the bike? The bike is in need of repair.
- They all like the new boss. The new boss got them pay raises.
Exercise 3.2 Restate each relative clause that follows as an elliptical relative clause.
This is the coat that I found. = This is the coat I found.
- She agreed to buy the car that I saw in the city.
- Do you have the money that I lent you?
- Where’s the lamp that I put on this table?
- That’s the fellow that I got the tickets from.
- Tom got a job in the factory in which my father works.
- Where did you find the books which I lost?
- Juan wrote the poem that Maria is reading right now.
- Help me find the kitten that the dog chased into the garden.
Possessive Relative Pronouns
- There are two forms of possessive for relative pronouns. One refers to people or other living things: whose. The other is a prepositional phrase using of.
- When you combine two sentences with a relative pronoun, and the noun you change to a relative pronoun is possessive (the boy’s, a writer’s), use whose as the relative pronoun. Look at these examples:
I saw the man. The man’s house had burned down.
I saw the man whose house had burned down.
I like the girl. The girl’s new car is a red convertible.
I like the girl whose new car is a red convertible.
- But when the possessive noun is an inanimate object, use a prepositional phrase with of. Look at these examples:
I found a book. The book’s cover was torn and dirty.
I found a book, the cover of which was torn and dirty.
You’ll recognize their house. The color of their house is bright yellow.
You’ll recognize their house, the color of which is bright yellow.
I have some lumber. The length of the lumber is perfect for this project.
I have some lumber, the length of which is perfect for this project.
- No matter how the inanimate object forms its possessive (the book’s or of the book), the relative pronoun is formed as a prepositional phrase (of which).
Exercise 4.1 Combine the following sentences. Use the appropriate possessiveform of the relative pronoun.
- I helped the young student. The young student’s grades were terrible.
- Where’s the fellow? The fellow’s car won’t start.
- I bought an old car. The interior of the old car was in bad condition.
- Where’s the woman? The woman’s husband still lives in Mexico.
- I need a carton. The carton’s size has to be two feet by three feet by three feet.
- Juan discovered a cave. The cave’s ceiling was more than thirty feet high.
- The doctor examined the child. The child’s temperature was over one hundred degrees.
- The teacher punished the boys. The boys’ behavior was awful.
- He reread the words. The meaning of the words was beyond his understanding.