pro·​noun | \ˈprō-ˌnau̇n \

Definition of pronoun 

: any of a small set of words in a language that are used as substitutes for nouns or noun phrases and whose referents are named or understood in the context

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What is a pronoun?

A pronoun is a word that is used instead of a noun or noun phrase. Pronouns refer to either a noun that has already been mentioned or to a noun that does not need to be named specifically.

The most common pronouns are the personal pronouns, which refer to the person or people speaking or writing (first person), the person or people being spoken to (second person), or other people or things (third person). Like nouns, personal pronouns can function as either the subject of a verb or the object of a verb or preposition: "She likes him, but he loves her." Most of the personal pronouns have different subject and object forms:

pronoun table

There are a number of other types of pronouns. The interrogative pronouns—particularly what, which, who, whom, and whose—introduce questions for which a noun is the answer, as in "Which do you prefer?"

Possessive pronouns refer to things or people that belong to someone. The main possessive pronouns are mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, and theirs.

The four demonstrative pronounsthis, that, these, and those—distinguish the person or thing being referred to from other people or things; they are identical to the demonstrative adjectives.

Relative pronouns introduce a subordinate clause, a part of a sentence that includes a subject and verb but does not form a sentence by itself. The main relative pronouns are that, which, who, whom, what, and whose.

Reflexive pronouns refer back to the subject of a sentence or clause and are formed by adding -self or -selves to a personal pronoun or possessive adjective, as in myself, herself, ourselves, and itself.

Indefinite pronouns, such as everybody, either, none, and something, do not refer to a specific person or thing, and typically refer to an unidentified or unfamiliar person or thing.

The words it and there can also be used like pronouns when the rules of grammar require a subject but no noun is actually being referred to. Both are usually used at the beginning of a sentence or clause, as in "It was almost noon" and "There is some cake left." These are sometimes referred to as expletives.

Examples of pronoun in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

While Einstein used male pronouns for deeper reflections about the Japanese, his thoughts about women were more about their physical appearance than their personality. Kristine Phillips, ajc, "Albert Einstein decried racism in America; his diaries reveal a xenophobic, misogynistic side," 13 June 2018 But their ability to follow a line of thought or figure out what a pronoun is referring to is limited. Rani Molla, Recode, "Voice tech like Alexa and Siri hasn’t found its true calling yet: Inside the voice assistant ‘revolution’," 12 Nov. 2018 Norris identifies as gender non-binary and uses the pronouns they and them. Amy Bartner, Indianapolis Star, "4 unexpected things you’ll see at 2018 Indy Pride -- and one you won’t," 7 June 2018 No one hides or switches up the pronouns in love songs any more. Jason Parham, WIRED, "A New Age of Queer Pop Is Here—And Artists Want to Talk," 22 June 2018 Blake, who goes by the pronouns they/them, references a wide array of kink — from B.D.S.M. to furries — as an artist while also pushing institutional boundaries as a curator. Julia Sherman, New York Times, "A Cookbook of Artists’ Creative Summer Desserts," 22 June 2018 Her requests to be called Lindsay and identified with female pronouns were denied by prison staff, as were her requests to be searched by female guards and buy women’s undergarments and facial hair remover. Monique Judge, The Root, "Transgender Woman Says She Was Raped at Colorado Men’s Prison Facility," 3 May 2018 Transgender students say that being called by names and pronouns that match their gender identity is critical for their transition and well being, as is having student records that reflect their gender identity. Eli Rosenberg, Washington Post, "A teacher refused to use transgender students’ names. His resignation was just approved.," 11 June 2018 According to Gill's wishes, as they are currently understood, his pronouns have been changed. Kathryn Lindsay,, "ScarJo Responds To Backlash Over Controversial Role Playing A Trans Man," 4 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pronoun.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of pronoun

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pronoun

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin pronomin-, pronomen, from pro- for + nomin-, nomen name — more at pro-, name

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More Definitions for pronoun



English Language Learners Definition of pronoun

grammar : a word (such as I, he, she, you, it, we, or they ) that is used instead of a noun or noun phrase


pro·​noun | \ˈprō-ˌnau̇n \

Kids Definition of pronoun

: a word used as a substitute for a noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on pronoun

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pronoun

Spanish Central: Translation of pronoun

Nglish: Translation of pronoun for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pronoun for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about pronoun

Comments on pronoun

What made you want to look up pronoun? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a nest or breeding place

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