pronoun

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

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

Ultimately, true gender affirming care could include medical professionals using the correct pronouns for patients, providing proper mental health care, providing hormones, or surgery, both, or neither. Elly Belle, Teen Vogue, "What Trying to Access Health Care is Like for Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming People," 24 Oct. 2018 Stop referring to the transgender activist by her original male name or with male pronouns. Ian Shapira, Washington Post, "He once defended the poor in court. Now he defends white supremacists.," 2 July 2018 Under guidelines issued in 2015 by New York City’s Commission on Human Rights, employers, landlords and business owners who intentionally use the wrong pronoun with transgender workers and tenants face potential fines of as much as $250,000. Abigail Shrier, WSJ, "The Transgender Language War," 29 Aug. 2018 Wynn was asked about her experiences with the LGBT community and youth, and to share her preferred pronouns. Dahlia Bazzaz, The Seattle Times, "100 Seattle students protest teacher displacement at City Hall," 25 Sep. 2018 Humble Hearts clarified to me that the studio sees its avatar as female, internally, but some cut features mean they are never identified with gendered pronouns in-game. Steven Strom, Ars Technica, "Never Stop Sneakin’ is a brilliant send-up of ’90s stealth games," 12 July 2018 The Jawn — a slang word particular to Philadelphia that functions as a pronoun for pretty much anything — is a garvey, a type of work boat. Cassie Owens, Philly.com, "This motorboat, the Jawn, is the handiwork of Philly teens," 2 June 2018 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

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

pronoun

noun

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

pronoun

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

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

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about pronoun

Comments on pronoun

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