pronoun

noun
pro·​noun | \ ˈprō-ˌnau̇n How to pronounce pronoun (audio) \

Definition of pronoun

1 plural pronouns : any of a small set of words (such as I, she, he, you, it, we, or they) in a language that are used as substitutes for nouns or noun phrases and whose referents are named or understood in the context
2 pronouns plural : the third person personal pronouns (such as he/him, she/her, and they/them) that a person goes by What are your pronouns? "I'm Jo, my pronouns are she/her." "I'm Jade, my pronouns are they/them." … many people with nonbinary genders use "they" and "their" pronouns, although language and gender expression vary widely.— Lucy Brisbane

Keep scrolling for more

Keep scrolling for more

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 Republicans have also pushed to let teachers and school districts use the pronoun that a transgender student does not prefer, exempting teachers from facing employment punishment and protecting schools from civil liability. NBC News, 26 Apr. 2022 Since 2015, Zzyym, who prefers a gender-neutral pronoun, has been in a legal battle with the State Department to obtain a passport that did not require Zzyym to lie about gender by picking either male or female. Colleen Slevin, The Christian Science Monitor, 28 Oct. 2021 The OpenAI machine uses the first-person pronoun, capturing—or suggesting anyway—its inner experience, and rendering that experience as dramatic, idiosyncratic, new. Virginia Heffernan, Wired, 15 Feb. 2022 Nasdaq will help boards find directors with the right skin tone or pronoun. Kenin M. Spivak, National Review, 8 Mar. 2022 Since 2015, Zzyym, who prefers a gender-neutral pronoun, has been in a legal battle with the State Department to obtain a passport that did not require Zzyym to lie about gender by picking either male or female. Colleen Slevin, The Christian Science Monitor, 28 Oct. 2021 Dear Amy: Furthering your ongoing discussion about using gender-neutral pronouns, in Finnish, there is no gendered pronoun. Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, 18 Jan. 2022 Polling shows a growing share of Americans know someone who is transgender or who goes by a gender-neutral pronoun. Phillip M. Bailey, USA TODAY, 20 Jan. 2022 Since 2015, Zzyym, who prefers a gender-neutral pronoun, has been in a legal battle with the State Department to obtain a passport that did not require Zzyym to lie about gender by picking either male or female. Colleen Slevin, The Christian Science Monitor, 28 Oct. 2021 See More

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.

Keep scrolling for more

First Known Use of pronoun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pronoun

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

Keep scrolling for more

Buying Guide

Check out the 11 best games for word lovers from our Reviews team.

Learn More About pronoun

Time Traveler for pronoun

Time Traveler

The first known use of pronoun was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near pronoun

pronotum

pronoun

pronounce

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for pronoun

Last Updated

30 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pronoun.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pronoun. Accessed 20 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for pronoun

pronoun

noun
pro·​noun | \ ˈprō-ˌnau̇n How to pronounce pronoun (audio) \

Kids Definition of pronoun

: a word used as a substitute for a noun

More from Merriam-Webster on pronoun

Nglish: Translation of pronoun for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pronoun for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about pronoun

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Color

  • a light greenish blue color
  • Name that color:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!