Lesson 4.3 Pronouns

Lesson 4.3 Pronouns

4.3.1  Pronouns are function words, like ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘him’, ‘hers’, that we use in a sentence instead of a noun. In Latin the prefix ‘pro’ means ‘in place of’ or ‘in exchange for’. They are short function words that fall between the cracks in sentences – between the content words. A pronoun makes a sentence better because it avoids repetition. For example:

Kathy told Bob that she would be late.    with pronoun she

sounds much better than:

Kathy told Bob that Kathy would be late.    repetition of Kathy

4.3.2  We use pronouns to replace nouns that we already know. In the example above, we have established that the subject of the sentence is Kathy. It is clear that ‘she’ refers back to ‘Kathy’. It can’t refer back to Bob, because he is a man and the pronoun would be ‘he’ rather than ‘she’. If both people in the sentence were female, it would be less clear who ‘she’ represented:

Kathy told Joanne that she would be late.

It might be necessary to ask a further question to find out who ‘she’ refers to:

Who would be late? Kathy or Joanne?

4.3.3  There are many different kinds of pronoun:

Definite pronouns are used when we know who or what they refer to:

This group of pronouns includes personal pronouns, reflexive pronouns,  and demonstrative pronouns (see Lesson 3.6). Possessive adjectives (my, your, his, her, etc.) are sometimes classed as pronouns, maybe because they look similar to certain personal pronouns, but they are not pronouns – they do not stand in place of a noun, but rather come before a noun (like an adjective) to define the owner of a particular thing.

A subject pronoun is used as the subject of a sentence. Its position in the sentence is before the main verb or auxiliary verb. In fact they often appear as the first word in a sentence. For example:

I like living in Barbados.

He knows a lot about Physics.

An object pronoun is used as the object of the verb. It represents the person or thing that the verb affects. Its position in the sentence is after the verb, and usually comes at the end of a clause or sentence. For example:

We don’t know them.    (an unspecified group of people)

The film was boring so I didn’t enjoy it.    (avoids repeating ‘the film’)

A possessive pronoun is used to represent the item that belongs to somebody. Its position in the sentence is after a noun. Instead of saying ‘The book was my book’ – with repetition of ‘book’ – we can say ‘The book was mine.’ If we already know that the subject is ‘book’ we can say, ‘It was mine.’ This makes the sentence much more efficient than: ‘The book was my book.’ For example:

This jacket is yours.    (it belongs to you)

This car is ours and that car is theirs.    (the first car belongs to us, the second belongs to them)

A reflexive pronoun is used to state that the action was done by the subject of the sentence: ‘I made this cake myself.’ = ‘I did it without any help.’ Its position in the sentence is after the verb and often at the end of the sentence. For example:

‘Can you help me with my homework?’ ‘No, do it yourself!’    (without help)

My parents paid for the house themselves.    (without financial help)

There are four demonstrative pronouns in English: this, that, these, and those. We use them to indicate the distance – in space or time – between the speaker/writer and the noun. They define which noun you mean, for example: ‘This book is mine, and that is yours.’ They are discussed in more detail in Unit 3.6.

This (for singular nouns) and these (for plural nouns) indicate that the noun is near in space or time, while that (for singular nouns) and those (for plural nouns) indicate that the noun is not near in space or time. They can also indicate possession. For example:

  • This is my bag. (it is close to me)
  • That is your bag. (it is closer to you than to me)
  • These are my sweets. (they belong to me)
  • Those are your sweets. (they belong to you)

4.3.4  Indefinite pronouns are used when we know who or what they refer to:

4.3.5  We use interrogative pronouns to introduce a question, e.g. ‘Who did you meet yesterday?’ See also Lesson 4.1 Wh- Questions.

We use -ever pronouns when we don’t really have an opinion about something:

4.3.6  Relative pronouns are used to join two ideas in a sentence, with the second part giving extra information about the first.

For example:

John in the solicitor who I met yesterday.

We can also use that when talking about people:

John is the solicitor that I met yesterday.

Whom is used instead of who in very formal contexts:

Whom shall I say called?’ ‘Ms. Phyllis Montague-Smyth OBE.’

We use whose when talking about possession:

This is Tony, whose brother plays in the school band.

When talking about things we use which or that:

  • These are the photos which I took last week.
  • These are the photos that I took last week.

That is slightly less formal that which. Things do not usually have things that belong to them, i.e. possessive relationships, so we don’t need to use whose.

However, we might use who and whose with an animal that we have a strong emotional relationship with, e.g. a pet:

  • My dog Bella, who I love, is about ten years old.
  • This is Bella, whose blanket is over there.

4.3.7  There are two reciprocal pronouns in English: each other and one another:

We use them to show that an action affects two or more people. We use each other when there are two people involved in the action, for example:

My cats, Tricky and Dicky, really love each other.

while we use one another when there are more than two people involved, for example:

When the bus arrived on time, everybody looked at one another in surprise!

4.3.8  Pronouns are function words which means they are usually unstressed. We use weak forms to pronounce them, rather than strong forms. In spoken English we often use the weak forms of function words instead of the strong forms to make the sound spine stand out more clearly. For example, in the following sentence ‘he’ is pronounced  hi  with a short  i  sound, rather than  Hee  with the long  ee  sound:

He’s not happy at work.  >  hi Sno_ Ha pii y_ Werk

(See Lesson 1.6 to learn more about Clear Alphabet.)

The weak form is made by replacing a strong vowel sound with:

  • a schwa sound uh  for example, their is pronounced  th  instead of  Their
  • a short i  sound      for example, he is pronounce  hi  instead of  Hee

Here are some more examples:

See the following worksheet for the full list of weak forms:

List of Common Weak Forms in Spoken English

Why should we use weak forms? If we use strong forms instead of weak forms, our speech will sound too formal and it will be more difficult for the listener to understand what we say, because they are listening our for the stressed vowel sounds. If every vowel sound is stressed, then none is! The end result is that the level of communication is reduced. However, if a function word comes at the end of a sentence we usually use its strong form, rather than its weak form, e.g. “What are you looking for?” ( for ) or, “Who are you writing to?” ( too ). Also, if we want to show emphasis or contrast, we can vary the intonation by using strong forms where we would normally use weak forms, e.g. “What did you think of the book?” ( yoo ). See Lesson 6.2.


Ex. 4.3.1 Reading  Fill in the gaps:

Ex. 4.3.2 Reading  Fill in the gaps using either I or me:

  1. Give that book to ________________ .
  2. ________________ don’t like working in shops.
  3. Does your friend know ________________ ?
  4. ________________ and Ted are going out for lunch.
  5. ________________ need to ask you something.
  6. ________________ ’m a vegetarian.
  7. ________________ was the first one to finish my exam.
  8. This is a picture of ________________ and mum on holiday.
  9. This is the house they showed ________________ .
  10. Did you know that ________________ live in Manchester?
  11. Jenny told ________________ that you went to London last week.
  12. ________________ will see you soon.
  13. Deepak is older than ________________ .
  14. Call ________________ when you get there.
  15. This is the house where ________________ was born.

Ex. 4.3.3 Reading  Fill in the gaps using I, me, my, mine, or myself:

  1. My colleague forgot to leave the documents for _______________.
  2. Tommy told me to book the plane tickets _______________.
  3. Can you tell _______________ what happened, please?
  4. I gave them a lift in _______________ car.
  5. _______________ live in Manchester.
  6. It was _______________ decision to get a divorce.
  7. Alison forgot her guitar so I lent her _______________.
  8. This is _______________ donut.
  9. I need to weigh _______________.
  10. _______________ don’t know how to play the piano.
  11. All the pictures on the wall were _______________.
  12. I usually make _______________ something to eat when I get home.
  13. Please tell Joanne that those dolls are _______________.
  14. Theresa asked _______________ for advice.
  15. _______________ ’m going to the shops in a minute.

Ex. 4.3.4 Reading  Fill in the gaps using you (subject pronoun), you (object pronoun), your, yours, or yourself:

  1. Is that red car _______________?
  2. I’m pleased for _______________.
  3. Take good care of _______________.
  4. I put _______________ sandwiches in my bag.
  5. Your teacher was looking for _______________.
  6. If you want some crisps you can buy them _______________.
  7. This plate is mine and the blue one is _______________.
  8. Don’t lose _______________ keys, will you?
  9. I’ll give _______________ a lift to work tomorrow.
  10. _______________ look tired today.
  11. Is this _______________ camera?
  12. _______________ are beautiful.
  13. Pete made two coffees. I’ll leave _______________ on the desk.
  14. Please try to control _______________, Alan.
  15. Do _______________ like pop music?

Ex. 4.3.5 Reading  Fill in the gaps using either he or him:

  1. ________________ always goes home early on Tuesdays.
  2. I asked ________________ for some help.
  3. ________________ asked, “What’s her problem?”
  4. ________________ was always a bit quiet.
  5. That’s easy for ________________ to say.
  6. Do you want to see ________________ now?
  7. ________________ needs a new pair of shoes.
  8. I think that ________________ is really selfish.
  9. Can you ask ________________ ?
  10. ________________ wasn’t very well last week.
  11. ________________ put on his coat and went out.
  12. Gillian gave the largest piece of cake to ________________ .
  13. I love spending time with ________________ .
  14. Everyone told ________________ to be quiet.
  15. There’s something strange about ________________ .

Ex. 4.3.6 Reading  Fill in the gaps using he, him, his (possessive adjective), his (possessive pronoun), or himself:

  1. _______________ has just told me what you said.
  2. I don’t trust _______________.
  3. _______________ loves Mozart.
  4. The zookeeper took _______________ uniform out of the locker.
  5. I showed _______________ my new smartphone.
  6. I didn’t like _______________ performance.
  7. _______________ went home two hours ago.
  8. He finds it nearly impossible to cook for _______________.
  9. We both follow _______________ on Twitter.
  10. Is that book _______________?
  11. The money on the table was all _______________.
  12. Spanish is not _______________ first language.
  13. A: Which film won best picture? B: _______________.
  14. Mark thought to _______________, ‘What a funny hat!’
  15. After arriving, George introduced _______________.

Ex. 4.3.7 Reading  Fill in the gaps using either she or her:

  1. ________________ thought he was joking.
  2. ________________ has got long hair.
  3. I see ________________ on the bus every day.
  4. John called ________________ at half past nine.
  5. Sally’s sister gave ________________ a new jacket.
  6. I know ________________ studies English.
  7. ________________ ’s quite serious, isn’t she?
  8. ________________ ’s not interested in geography.
  9. That guitar belongs to ________________ .
  10. Is ________________ going on holiday with you?
  11. ________________ waited in the rain for half an hour.
  12. I told ________________ that you can’t meet ________________ .
  13. ________________ picked up the bag.
  14. My neighbour said that ________________ wasn’t coming.
  15. Ask my sister if ________________ saw him.

Ex. 4.3.8 Reading  Fill in the gaps using she, her (object pronoun), her (possessive adjective), hers, or herself:

  1. _______________ likes reading and rock climbing, but not at the same time!
  2. The problem was with Laura _______________, not anybody else.
  3. She won’t say why _______________ left Gerald.
  4. Mrs Lyndhurst usually washes the curtains _______________.
  5. The decision about quitting her job was entirely _______________.
  6. I was talking to _______________ for about half an hour.
  7. _______________ is upstairs getting ready.
  8. Those earrings don’t really suit _______________.
  9. _______________ mum lives in Barnsley.
  10. Alison rang _______________, but she didn’t pick up her phone.
  11. I borrowed _______________ car yesterday.
  12. I love your article, but I can’t stand _______________.
  13. Last night was _______________ first time playing with the Philharmonic.
  14. That isn’t my bag, it’s _______________.
  15. Sally promised _______________ that she would finish the course.

Ex. 4.3.9 Reading  Fill in the gaps using either we or us:

  1. ________________ aren’t interested.
  2. Nobody told ________________ .
  3. They don’t believe ________________ .
  4. Will ________________ be able to meet up?
  5. This is what ________________ wanted.
  6. They saw ________________ walking down the road.
  7. ________________ agree with you.
  8. Tell ________________ what you mean.
  9. ________________ hope that you enjoy yourselves.
  10. Can ________________ tell you tomorrow?
  11. ________________ don’t want to go out.
  12. This puts ________________ in a difficult position.
  13. That’s impossible for ________________ .
  14. ________________ ’ll do what ________________ can.
  15. Thank you for inviting ________________ .

Ex. 4.3.10 Reading  Fill in the gaps using we, us, our, ours, or ourselves:

  1. That’s _______________ in the photo – behind the gate.
  2. The science experiment that went wrong had to be _____________, didn’t it?
  3. _______________ ’ve been waiting for you here all day.
  4. We painted the whole wall _______________.
  5. It’s _______________ turn to play on the tablet!
  6. Dora put her song online, so I’ve uploaded _______________ too.
  7. On Tuesday _______________ ’re going to Cromer.
  8. We had taught _______________ to read German.
  9. The football coach never picks _______________.
  10. _______________ hope you have a good birthday.
  11. I don’t know where _______________ taxi has got to.
  12. Snow was falling all around _______________.
  13. _______________ tent has got a hole in it.
  14. The best argument in court was _______________, in my opinion.
  15. We surprised _______________ by coming first in the race.

Ex. 4.3.11 Reading  Fill in the gaps using either they or them:

  1. I don’t know ________________ at all.
  2. ________________ can’t hear you.
  3. Ask ________________ yourself.
  4. Who is that man with ________________ ?
  5. ________________ went to the cinema with Linda and Rachael last night.
  6. Please tell ________________ that ________________ are early.
  7. Somebody wants to see ________________ .
  8. I will put ________________ on the waiting list.
  9. ________________ are at the football match.
  10. Did ________________ see you there?
  11. I’ve never heard of ________________ .
  12. I want to invite _______________ , but I think ______________ are busy.
  13. ________________ cut the grass, just like I asked ________________ to.
  14. It was kind of ________________ to say ________________ would help.
  15. What colour curtains do ________________ want?

Ex. 4.3.12 Reading  Fill in the gaps using they, them, their, theirs, or themselves:

  1. _______________ will discuss the problem with you tomorrow.
  2. I didn’t hire these DVDs – the twins borrowed them ______________.
  3. Please pop _______________ in the post box on your way home.
  4. The birds on the bird table are feeding _______________.
  5. They’ve taken _______________ brother to the beach for the day.
  6. _______________ didn’t allow Jamie to use the photocopier.
  7. Annie and Charlie were watching _______________ favourite programme.
  8. I saw _______________ coming out of the cinema.
  9. I thought _______________ had never eaten Italian food before.
  10. Can you remember whether these books are _______________?
  11. I disagreed with _______________.
  12. The horses were prancing in _______________ field.
  13. This is our pie; I’ve left _______________ over there.
  14. Our bosses put together the training programme _______________.
  15. The fault was entirely ________, because they failed to buy a parking permit.

Ex. 4.3.13 Reading  Fill in each gap with either a subject pronoun or object pronoun:

  1. Have you seen my dad? ____________ ’s wearing a red shirt.
  2. Are ____________ going to finish your dinner?
  3. I don’t like Christopher. ____________ really annoys ____________ .
  4. Your bag is over there. Take __________ with __________ when you go.
  5. We always go to bed early. Ten o’clock is late for ____________ .
  6. Her shoes were dirty, so ____________ cleaned ____________ .
  7. I’m going to the cinema. Do __________ want to come with __________ ?
  8. My brother rang last night. __________ was great to talk to __________ .
  9. Emily saw ____________ at the restaurant. They were having lunch.
  10. The boy came up to ____________ and took my hand.
  11. I don’t think the shop is open. ____________ usually closes at five thirty.
  12. I showed ___________ my photos. He thought ___________ were boring.
  13. “How much is that CD?” “____________ think ____________ ’s £11.99.”
  14. Ben isn’t coming to see the film. ____________ ’s seen ____________ already.
  15. It’s sunny today, isn’t ____________ ?
  16. I went to see my aunt. ____________ was pleased to see ____________ .
  17. It’s good to see ____________ all. Thanks for coming.
  18. Lara’s boyfriend has broken up with ____________ . ____________ told ____________ that ____________ doesn’t love her any more.
  19. ____________ were annoyed when their meal was late.
  20. Adele said goodbye to her brother. She was sad to watch ____________ go.

Ex. 4.3.14 Reading  Add pronouns and possessive adjectives to the following sentences. Say what kind of pronoun each one is. Note: There may be more than once correct answer!

  1. ____________ mum lives with ____________ new partner in Brighton.
  2. ____________ daughter is playing with ____________ cousins.
  3. Jenna’s aunt and uncle visited ____________ in May because ____________ wanted to see ____________ new baby.
  4. ____________ sister was walking to the city museum with ____________ children when ____________ saw a fox.
  5. ____________ son has decided to go on holiday to Florida next year by ____________.
  6. ____________ grandma and granddad should think about moving into a retirement bungalow.
  7. Is ____________ brother going to start ____________ uni course in Edinburgh next September?
  8. If ____________ parents get divorced ____________ will be very disappointed.

Ex. 4.3.15 Reading  Put the indefinite pronouns into groups:

Ex. 4.3.16 Reading  Match each pronoun with its weak form:

Ex. 4.3.17 Reading  Improve each sentence by replacing unnecessary nouns with pronouns or possessive adjectives:

  1. Paul said that Paul’s mum stayed at Paul’s last night.
  2. ‘The bus leaves at five.’ ‘What time is the time now?’ ‘Ten to five.’
  3. Our family has got our family’s own traditions at New Year.
  4. My brother told me that my brother booked a table at my brother’s girlfriend’s favourite restaurant.
  5. ‘This book is my book and that book is your book.’ ‘Which book is your book, and which book is my book?’ ‘This book!’
  6. Terry’s father was a fireman. Terry’s father worked in Alfreton. Terry’s father loved his job, because Terry’s father was very good at his job.
  7. Their daughter-in-law has baked a chocolate cake for their daughter-in-law’s son’s nursery school party. Their daughter-in-law’s son’s nursery play takes place tomorrow.
  8. Simon put his sandwiches on the side. Simon’s sandwiches looked delicious, but Simon couldn’t eat Simon’s sandwiches yet, because Simon was waiting for Simon’s sister Cecilia to appear.

Ex. 4.3.18 Writing  Complete the worksheets:

Write Your Own Verbs Challenge 1
Write Your Own Verbs Challenge 2

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