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Personal, Possessive, Indefinite, Oh My! A List of Pronouns
Pronouns are a crucial component to writing in a clear, concise, and interesting style. There are many words that can function in this capacity, including several that also fulfill the functions of other parts of speech. In this article, we’ll go over several categories of the potential pronouns list and discuss how each can be used.
This Time It’s Personal!
The most common subcategory, and the one you probably think of first when you consider this category of words, is the personal category. These are the ones that specifically identify or replace a previously stated noun that names a person or, sometimes, a place, object, or concept. Let’s lay out our first pronoun list and talk about the ways we can differentiate between the words that belong to it.
Making a List, Checking It Twice
Before we can discuss this collection of words, we have to know which words are included. Below is a complete personal pronouns list:
Make Your Case
We can separate the above list of pronouns into two categories: subject and object. The former includes: I, you, he, she, it, we, and they (including both the singular and plural uses of you). The latter encompasses: me, you, him, her, it, us, and them (again including both the singular and plural you). What’s the difference between each personal pronouns list?
The difference is a grammatical concept called case, which essentially denotes what function a noun can serve in a sentence and how it relates to the other words that surround it. The first pronoun list is comprised of nouns that can be used as the subjects of sentences.
- I went to the store.
- They cooked dinner for the whole family.
The second list, in contrast, contains words that cannot serve as subjects that perform some action, but rather as objects that are acted upon.
- Lucy gave the book to him.
- Christopher asked them to complete the task.
Both categories include words that replace an antecedent that has previously been identified (him or them in the above two sentences presumably refer back to something in a previous sentence) alongside words that are the only way to refer to someone (I and you).
His, Hers, and Theirs
If you look at our list of personal pronouns, you’ll probably notice intuitively that some specify the gender of the noun they refer to, while others do not. Let’s start with a pronouns list of the examples that specify gender:
Other variations on this can include possessives such as hers or his. In contrast, we have a gender neutral pronouns list below:
- you (singular and plural)
In English, plural pronouns are part of the gender neutral pronouns list because they do not differentiate if the group is comprised of only one gender or of more than one. I and you do not specify gender, since they directly address someone. It is the singular neutral, but in English, it is considered rude to use it to refer to a person. The singular they for these situations has existed in English since the 14th century and has returned to popular usage in recent years.
A note on the “person” part of the above pronoun list: person, in a grammatical context, does not have to signify a human being. It is also a grammar concept that separates nouns and verbs into three categories:
- First person, which refers to the speaker (I or we)
- Second person, which refers to someone directly addressed (you)
- Third person, which identifies any other being (he, she, it, they)
Person is one of several grammatical concepts that need to be mastered for excellent writing. Along with grammar, it’s also important to master common writing and citation styles, including MLA format and APA format. There are also several more styles that you may encounter in your classes or professional work, and it’s always a good idea to run your work through a plagiarism checker! Our tools are at your disposal.
The Future Is Indefinite
One of the largest categories we’ll look at is indefinites. To start, here’s an indefinite pronouns list (fair warning, it’s long):
- no one/nobody
We use these in a wide variety of situations, but they all have one thing in common: they don’t specifically identify a person, place, thing, or idea, but instead tend to draw attention to that very same lack of specificity.
- The spy could be anyone.
- Whoever wins the game will get a huge prize.
Using one of these words indicates a lack of certainty about who or what, specifically, is doing the action. In the first sentence, we are told that every person in the scene might be the spy, even though only one of them actually is. In the second, the winner of the game has not yet been determined, so the possibilities are multiple.
These can also be used to point out that all or none of a group are included in the action.
- Everything in the building is falling apart.
- Nothing can change the facts.
Here, we can see how some members of this list of pronouns can be used in either concrete or abstract ways. The first sentence includes a prepositional phrase (in the building) to place a concrete limit on everything—we understand that everything here defines the group of things that are in the building. The second, however, uses nothing as an abstraction to denote a complete absence of possibilities.
One more major group is the interrogative category, which are, as you might expect, used to ask questions. The interrogative pronouns list is as follows:
Although these words have a double function as interrogators around which questions are built, they also can function as more typical nouns.
Whatever they want to do is fine with me.
Do you know whom to ask about tickets?
In some ways, they function similarly to the indefinites we looked at in the previous pronouns list in that they are often used to indicate uncertainty or possibilities that have not yet been determined.
Using pronouns can make your writing clear and keep it from feeling repetitive or stale. This list of pronouns has hopefully given you plenty of examples. For more details, try this additional reference.