What is a Pronoun?

What is a Pronoun?


A pronoun is defined as a word or phrase that is used as a substitution for a noun or noun phrase, which is known as the pronoun’s antecedent. Pronouns are short words and can do everything that nouns can do and are one of the building blocks of a sentence. Common pronouns are he, she, you, me, I, we, us, this, them, that. A pronoun can act as a subject, direct object, indirect object, object of the preposition, and more and takes the place of any person, place, animal or thing. So coffee becomes it, Barbara becomes she, Jeremy becomes he, the team becomes they, and in a sentence, Barbara drinks a cup of coffee every afternoon could become she drinks a cup of it every afternoon, or even she drinks it every afternoon, where the it would substitute the cup of coffee, not just the coffee.


Without pronouns, we’d constantly have to repeat nouns, and that would make our speech and writing repetitive, not to mention cumbersome. Without pronouns, Barbara drinks a cup of coffee every afternoon, she likes to have it before dinner would be Barbara drinks a cup of coffee every afternoon, Barbara likes to have the cup of coffee before dinner. Using pronouns helps the flow of sentences and makes them more interesting


  • He
  • It
  • You
  • I
  • They
  • We
  • Who
  • Him
  • Them
  • Whoever
  • Anyone
  • Something
  • Nobody


Pronoun examples in the following sentences are in bold for easy identification.


  1. Billy, Caren, and I were playing poker with friends -> We were playing poker with friends.
  2. Ellie loves watching movies. -> She loves watching movies, especially if they are comedies.
  3. Will Daniel be going to the circus with Sarah? -> Will he be going there with her?


As mentioned, pronouns are usually used to replace nouns, however they can also stand in for certain adverbs, adjectives, and other pronouns. Almost anytime you refer to a person, animal, place or thing, you can use pronouns to add interest and make your speech or writing flow better.


In nearly all cases, a pronoun must follow an expression called an antecedent. This basically means that a pronoun can only really be understood in the context of prior information about the noun. For example, if we use the pronoun she in a sentence, we will only be able to understand it if we know who she is, thus an antecedent, perhaps giving the person’s name, is usually supplied first. In the example above Barbara drinks a cup of coffee every afternoon, if we had never mentioned Barbara or what she drinks, it would be unclear if we said, She drinks it every afternoon. Your reader would be confused and wonder who she is and what does she drink, wine, water, lemonade?


Once Barbara has been mentioned, we would use the pronouns she and her later in the writing in order to stop repeating the proper noun Barbara and possessive proper noun Barbara’s.Barbara went to the restaurant for dinner with her (Barbara’s) friends. She (Barbara) was very hungry, but her (Barbara’s) friends would not stop chatting. Eventually, Barbara decided to take matters into her (Barbara’s) own hands and she (Barbara) demanded that they (Barbara’s friends) stop talking.


Imagine how that sentence would read if it kept repeating Barbara and Barbara’s. Pronouns have acted to make the writing tighter and, arguably, much more elegant. This is just a basic example of the use of pronouns, they act in many ways to help make speech and writing more lucid and dynamic.