English Pronouns: The 9 Most Important Pronouns and How to Use Them

Pronouns can mean almost anything, so they are one of the best tools you can use to make your English adventure easier.

This post covers everything you need to know about English pronouns, divided up into nine different pronoun types, and of course, we’ve got plenty of examples to help make it clear.


What Are Pronouns in English?

Simply put, a pronoun is a word that can substitute a noun or a noun phrase.

It refers to people, animals, objects, places, things or ideas mentioned anywhere else in the sentence or understood by context.

Consider these example sentences with nouns and with pronouns: 

Sentence with nounSentence with pronoun
My mom loves animals.She loves animals.
Your brother is very impatient.He is very impatient.
This book is excellent.It is excellent.

This is just one type of pronoun—the personal one. English has a total of nine different types of pronouns, and each is used for different purposes. 

1. Personal Pronouns

Despite the name, personal pronouns do not only refer to people. They can also substitute for animals and objects. Personal pronouns are probably the type of pronoun that you are most familiar with, since they are taught very early on to beginner English learners.

This type of pronoun changes depending on:

  • grammatical person (who you are talking about)
  • gender (only in the third person singular)
  • number (how many)

There are two kinds of personal pronouns, depending on their function in the sentence.

Subject Personal Pronouns

Subject personal pronouns function as subjects of sentences. They substitute the person, animal or object performing the action of the sentence.

The eight subject personal pronouns are:

PronounPerson and genderRefers toExample
Ifirst person singular, masculine and feminineyourselfI love dogs.
yousecond person singular, masculine and femininea single other personYou aren't tired, are you?
hethird person singular, masculineone single maleHe is a doctor.
shethird person singular, feminineone single femaleShe loves running.
itthird person singular, neuterone single thingIt was left on the street.
wefirst person plural, masculine and femininea group that includes yourselfWe are going to the cinema.
you, you allsecond person plural, masculine and femininea group outside yourselfYou all are hungry, right?
theythird person plural, masculine or femininea group that doesn't include present companyThey made a reservation at the burger restaurant.

Object Personal Pronouns

Object personal pronouns function as objects of sentences.

Here’s the full list of object personal pronouns:

PronounPerson and genderRefers toExample
mefirst person singular, masculine or feminineyourselfIt sounds good to me.
yousecond person singular, masculine or femininesomeone elseI like you.
himthird person singular, masculineone other maleThe car belongs to him.
herthird person singular, feminineone other femaleI like her a lot.
itthird person singular, neuterone thingI lost it at the beach.
usfirst person plural, masculine or femininea group that includes yourselfIt's too expensive for us.
you, you allsecond person plural, masculine or femininea group that doesn't include yourselfI'm coming to dinner with you all.
themthird person plural, masculine or femininea group that doesn't include yourself and aren't presentThe crime was committed by them.

2. Possessive Pronouns

what are the english pronouns

Possessive pronouns are the pronouns that help us talk about possession and ownership (who owns what).

Possessive pronouns also have different forms depending on the grammatical person. They can also change depending on the gender of the noun (in the third person singular), but they do not show number in English:

This is my book. → It is mine.

These are my books. → They are mine.

As with the personal pronouns, we have one possessive pronoun for each grammatical person:

PronounPerson and genderRefers toExample
minefirst person singular or plural, masculine or feminineyourselfThe dog is mine.
yourssecond person singular or plural, masculine or femininesomeone elseIs this ring yours?
histhird person singular or plural, masculinea single maleThat's his car.
hersthird person singular or plural, femininea single femaleThose cats are hers.
itsthird person singular or plural, neutera single thingIts tires are flat.
oursfirst person singular or plural, masculine or femininea group that includes yourselfThe dinner reservations are ours.
yourssecond person singular or plural, masculine or femininea present group that doesn't include yourselfIs this key yours? [to a couple]
theirsthird person singular or plural, masculine or femininea group that doesn't include yourself and isn't presentI don't know where this lemonade came from, I think it's theirs.

3. Demonstrative Pronouns

what are the english pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns are the pronouns we use to refer and point to specific people, animals and things.

The four main demonstrative pronouns are:

thisclosesingularThis is so exciting.
thatfarsingularThat was delicious.
theseclosepluralThese fit really well.
thosefarpluralThose aren't the right color.

As you can see, the only two things we have to take into account when using them is the distance (in space or time) from the speaker and the number of the noun they are referring to.

4. Indefinite Pronouns

what are the english pronouns

Indefinite pronouns are pronouns that refer mainly to non-specific people, animals, things and quantities.

This means they do not refer to specific nouns. Instead, they refer to any noun of the category the speaker is talking about:

Anybody can do it. (Any person can do it.)

I already have enough to build a castle. (I have a non-specific amount of something, perhaps sand, to build a castle.)

The group of indefinite pronouns is the biggest one. The main pronouns included in this group are:

another, other, anybody, anyone, somebody, someone, nobody, no one, everybody, everyone, nothing, anything, something, everything, each, either, neither, one, enough, less, little, much, more, both, few, fewer, several, many, others, all, any, most, least, some, such, none

As you can see, they are super varied and could be grouped into several subcategories, for example, pronouns that:

  • only refer to people: anybody, anyone, somebody, someone, nobody, no one, everybody, everyone.
  • only refer to things: anything, something, nothing, everything.
  • only refer to countable nouns: few, fewer, several, many, others.
  • only refer to uncountable nouns: little, less, least.

5. Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns are a small group of pronouns that introduce relative clauses.

They are called “relative” because they refer to the noun described or modified by the relative clause. A basic way to tell if a part of a sentence is a relative clause is to remove it—if the sentence still makes sense without it, then it is a relative clause!

The English relative pronouns are:

PronounRefers toExample
who/whompeopleThe runner who won the race was 35.
whichanimals and thingsPasta, which we eat once a week, is my favorite food.
thatpeople, animals and thingsThe dress I bought last week is green.
whosepeople, animals and thingsThe boy whose hair is red is winning the race.

6. Interrogative pronouns

what are the english pronouns

The set of interrogative pronouns looks almost identical to the relative pronouns (except for that becoming what).

This group of pronouns does not describe or give information about a noun.

Instead, interrogative pronouns are used to ask questions about people, animals, things and possessors:

PronounTo ask aboutExample
who/whompeopleWho is that woman?
whichanimals and thingsWhich shirt do you like best?
whatpeople, animals and thingsWhat is he doing over there?
whosepeople, animals and things (possessive)Whose cat is this?

7. Reflexive pronouns

what are the english pronouns

The reflexive pronouns are used when a person, animal or object performs (does) an action on themselves, such as bathing or washing (oneself).

This is another group of pronouns that has a different form for each grammatical person:

PronounPerson and genderRefers toExample
myselffirst person singular, masculine or feminineyourselfIf I want the job done well, I have to do it myself.
yourselfsecond person singular, masculine or feminineanother single personDo it yourself!
himselfthird person singular, masculinea single maleHe made the lasagna all by himself.
herselfthird person singular, femininea single femaleShe got the job done by herself.
itselfthird person singular, neutera single thingThat fire started by itself.
ourselvesfirst person plural, masculine or femininea group that includes yourselfWe're going to have to do this ourselves I'm afraid.
yourselvessecond person plural, masculine or femininea group that doesn't include yourselfI don't want to clean the house. Do it yourselves.
themselvesthird person plural, masculine or femininea group that doesn't include yourself and isn't presentThey built the house themselves.

Notice how the second person singular and the second person plural are different, which happens very rarely in English.

You might be asking why we need a set of reflexive pronouns to refer to a subject when we can just use the same subject once again. Well, reflexive pronouns help us avoid misunderstandings and sentences that would sound very weird or just be ungrammatical.

8. Reciprocal Pronouns

Reciprocal pronouns are a very special type of English pronoun.

There are only two of them:

each othertwo peopleThey love each other deeply.
one anothermore than two peopleThey all shook hands with one another.

They are used when two or more people perform a reciprocal action: an action that everyone in the situation is either doing or having it done to them.

Try not to confuse reflexive and reciprocal pronouns. Sometimes they make sentences look very similar in meaning to learners, but they only seem similar. The reality is different:

We love ourselves. (I love myself and my friend loves himself, but we do not love each other.)

We love each other. (I love her and she loves me, but I do not necessarily love myself or she herself.)

9. Intensive pronouns

The intensive pronouns are used to add emphasis or importance to the subject or antecedent of a sentence.

They look identical to the reflexive pronouns, but they are used differently.

While reflexive pronouns refer to a subject performing an action on itself, intensive pronouns refer to a subject that is not doing anything to itself. We just want to emphasize the subject of the sentence:

I did it myself. (I did it on my own, no one helped me.)

She wrote the article herself. Can you believe it? (She wrote the article without any help.)

A quick trick to decide if a pronoun is reflexive or intensive is to try to remove it from the sentence. If this is possible, the pronoun is intensive. If it is not possible, the pronoun is reflexive:

I cut the paper myself. (I cut the paper makes sense, so this is an intensive pronoun.)

I cut myself last week. (I cut last week does not make sense, so this is a reflexive pronoun.)


As you can see, English pronouns are as varied as they are necessary.

We may not be aware of this, but we constantly use pronouns when we speak or write in English, so the sooner you learn them, the better. You can see for yourself by picking a random video on YouTube or FluentU to watch, then counting how many pronouns appear on it. If you use FluentU, you can also save the pronouns to a flashcard deck and view other videos where they appear for additional context.

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Each set of pronouns has its own characteristics, but remember that all pronouns share two traits: They substitute a noun and they work on their own.

Now that you have finished reading the post, pick a couple of pronouns from each group and try to write some sample sentences with them. Remember that practice makes perfect, and this is especially true when we are dealing with grammar topics.

Let’s see each other in the next post. Or one another, if you bring a friend with you.

Stay curious, my friends and, as always, happy learning!

And One More Thing...

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