Personal pronoun

Personal pronoun

*He shook her hand.
*Why do you always rely on me to do your homework for you?
*They tried to run away from the hunter, but he set his dogs after them.

Personal pronouns are pronouns used as substitutes for proper or common nouns. All known human languages have personal pronouns, and often they reflect the society that they are used by.

English personal pronouns

English in common use today has seven personal pronouns:
*first-person singular (I)
*first-person plural (we)
*second-person singular and plural (you)
*third-person singular human or animate male (he)
*third-person singular human or animate female (she)
*third-person singular non-human or inanimate, or impersonal (it)
*third-person plural (they)"'Each pronoun has a number of forms:
* A "subjective form" (I/we/etc.)
**Used when it's the subject of a finite verb
* An "objective" or "oblique" form (me/us/etc.)
**Used when it's the object of a verb or of a preposition
* A "reflexive form" (myself/ourselves/etc.)
**Which replaces the objective-case form in referring to the same entity as the subject.
* And two "possessive forms" (my/our/etc. and mine/ours/etc.)
** Used when they stand for the possessor of another noun — one that is used as a determiner, and one that is used as a pronoun or a predicate adjective. The former are sometimes not included among the pronouns, since they do not act as nouns, but have a role closer to that of adjectives. Nevertheless, the term "pronoun" is frequently applied to both, at least informally. The two sets of pronouns are sometimes distinguished with the terms "possessive determiners" or "possessive adjectives", and "possessive pronouns", respectively.


In English, it is standard to use personal pronouns explicitly even when the context already understood, or could easily be understood by reading the sentences that follow. For example, one does not normally use the word "he" to refer to somebody if the person reading or hearing the sentence does not know to whom one is referring.

In addition, personal pronouns must correspond to the correct gender and number of people or objects being described. Using the word "it" in English to refer to a person, for example, is usually considered extremely derogatory. It is generally not accepted to use a singular version of a pronoun for a plural noun, and vice versa. An exception is the informal use of "they" to refer to one person when sex is unknown: "If somebody took my book, "they'd" better give it back" (see singular they).

In general, pronouns are used often, since too little of their usage can make a sentence very difficult to read.

In French, pronouns include "je", "nous", "tu", "vous", "ils", "elles", "lui", "toi", "moi", etc. There are different pronouns used for different genders and numbers of people, and unlike English where "them" and "they" are used for every object whether it is masculine or feminine, in French the plural forms vary according to gender. In addition, in French, different pronouns are used for indirect objects of a sentence than direct objects.

Interlingua pronouns also vary by number and gender: singular "io", "tu", and "ille", for example, correspond with plural "nos", "vos", and "illes". Like French, Interlingua has different pronouns for different genders and numbers. "Ille" and "illes" are masculine and general, for example, while "illa" and "illas" are feminine. Unlike French, however, verbs remain the same for all pronouns:: "Illa lege un articulo," she is reading an article: "Illas lege articulos," they (feminine) are reading articlesInterlingua has relationships with many language families, and this is reflected in its pronouns. Interlingua "io", for example, shows similarities with such word forms as English "I", German "ich", Italian "io", Spanish "yo", Russian "ya", and Chinese "wo".

Other types of personal pronouns

Pronouns usually show the basic distinctions of person (typically a three-way distinction between first, second, and third persons) and number (typically singular vs. plural), but they may also feature other categories such as case (nominative "we" vs. objective "us" in English), gender (masculine "he" vs. feminine "she" in English), and animacy or humanness (human "who" vs. nonhuman "what" in English). These can of course vary greatly. The English dialect spoken in Dorset uses "ee" for animates and "er" for inanimates.

Many pronoun systems, including some used in Indo-European languages, (e.g. Ancient Greek) have a dual number in addition to plural. This distinction existed in Anglo-Saxon but died out by Middle English. Other examples of this in other language families include Classical Hebrew and Arabic. In addition, the 'trial' (we three) is found in some languages.

Some languages distinguish between "inclusive" and "exclusive" first-person plural pronouns--those that do and do not include their audience, respectively. For example, Tok Pisin has seven first-person pronouns according to number (singular, dual, trial, plural) and inclusiveness/exclusiveness, such as "mitripela" (they two and I) and "yumitripela" (you two and I). This is common in languages spoken in traditional societies, such as Quechua and Melanesian languages. This may be related to the existence of moieties in the culture.

Slavic languages have two different third-person genitive pronouns (one reflexive, one not). For example, in Serbian::"Ana je dala Mariji svoju knjigu" — Ana gave her-REFLEXIVE book to Maria — i.e., "Ana gave her own book to Maria.":"Ana je dala Mariji njenu knjigu" — Ana gave her-NON-REFLEXIVE book to Maria — i.e., "Ana gave Maria's book to her."

The pronoun may encode politeness and formality. Many languages have different pronouns for informal use or use among friends, and for formal use or use about/towards superiors, especially in the second person. A common pattern is the so-called T-V distinction (named after the use of pronouns beginning in "t-" and "v-" in Romance languages, as in French "tu" and "vous").

It is very common for pronouns to show more grammatical distinctions than nouns. The Romance languages have lost the Latin grammatical case for nouns, but preserve the distinction in the pronouns. The same holds for English with respect to its Germanic ancestor.

It is also not uncommon for languages not to have third-person pronouns. In those cases the usual way to refer to third persons is by using demonstratives or full noun phrases. Latin made do without third-person pronouns, replacing them with demonstratives (which are in fact the source of third-person pronouns in all Romance languages).

Some languages, such as Japanese and Korean, have pronouns that reflect deep-seated societal categories. This is an extension of the politeness and formality distinctions found in other languages. In these languages there is a small set of nouns that refer to the discourse participants. These referential nouns are not usually used, with proper nouns, deictics, and titles being used instead. Usually, once the topic is understood, no explicit reference is made at all. In Japanese sentences, subjects are not obligatory, so the speaker chooses which word to use depending on the rank, job, age, gender, etc. of the speaker and the addressee. For instance, in formal situations, adults usually refer to themselves as "watashi" or the even more polite "watakushi", while young men may use the student-like "boku" and police officers may use "honkan" ("this officer"). In informal situations, women may use the colloquial "atashi", and men may use the rougher "ore".

Other common distinctions made with personal pronouns found in the world's languages include:
* disjunctive pronouns;
* intensive pronouns;
* prepositional pronouns;
* direct and indirect object pronouns;
* reciprocal pronouns;
* weak pronouns.

Null-subject and pro-drop languages

In some languages, a pronoun is required whenever a noun or noun phrase needs to be referenced, and sometimes even when no such antecedent exists (cf the dummy pronoun in English "it rains"). In many other languages, however, pronouns can be omitted when unnecessary or when context makes it clear who or what is being talked about. Such languages are called null-subject languages (when subject pronouns may be omitted), or pro-drop languages (when, more generally, subject or object pronouns may be omitted). In some cases the information about the antecedent is preserved in the verb, through its conjugation.

ee also

*Pronoun game
*Grammatical person
*Dummy pronoun
*Gender-neutral pronoun
*Gender-specific pronoun
*Gender neutral language
*Generic antecedents
*Grammatical gender
*Inclusive and exclusive we

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • personal pronoun — ► NOUN ▪ each of the pronouns in English (I, you, he, she, it, we, they, me, him, her, us, and them) that show contrasts of person, gender, number, and case. USAGE I, we, they, he, and she are subjective personal pr …   English terms dictionary

  • Personal pronoun — Personal Per son*al (p[ e]r s[u^]n*al), a. [L. personalis: cf. F. personnel.] 1. Pertaining to human beings as distinct from things. [1913 Webster] Every man so termed by way of personal difference. Hooker. [1913 Webster] 2. Of or pertaining to a …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • personal pronoun — personal pronouns N COUNT A personal pronoun is a pronoun such as I , you , she , or they which is used to refer to the speaker or the person spoken to, or to a person or thing whose identity is clear, usually because they have already been… …   English dictionary

  • personal pronoun — n technical a ↑pronoun such as I , you , or they …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • personal pronoun — noun count LINGUISTICS a pronoun such as I, you, them, or it that refers to a specific person, thing, or group of people or things …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • personal pronoun — n. any of a group of pronouns referring to the speaker(s), the person(s) spoken to, or any other person(s) or thing(s): the English personal pronouns, nominative case form, are: I2, YOU, HE1, SHE, IT1, WE, THEY …   English World dictionary

  • personal pronoun — noun a pronoun expressing a distinction of person (Freq. 2) • Hypernyms: ↑pronoun • Hyponyms: ↑reflexive pronoun, ↑reflexive * * * noun, pl ⋯ nouns [count] grammar : a pronoun (such as I, you, they, or …   Useful english dictionary

  • personal pronoun — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms personal pronoun : singular personal pronoun plural personal pronouns linguistics a pronoun such as I , you , them , or it that refers to a specific person, thing, or group of people or things …   English dictionary

  • personal pronoun — noun a) A pronoun which, in English, refers to one or a combination of the following: b) Any pronoun, with an antecedent, standing in as the subject or object of a verb …   Wiktionary

  • personal pronoun — noun Date: 1668 a pronoun (as I, you, or they) that expresses a distinction of person …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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