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

But the performer is in reality neither a woman nor a Hasid, but the 20-year-old genderqueer drag queen, combat soldier and political activist Mama de la Smallah, who switches between pronouns as easily as costumes. Laura E. Adkins,, "20-year-old Israeli combat soldier is also a drag queen," 3 July 2019 Language — such as derogatory use of the word gay — harmful humour and people using the wrong pronouns were some of the factors that created an unwelcoming climate. Elizabeth Gibney, Scientific American, "Discrimination Drives LGBT+ Scientists to Think About Quitting," 29 June 2019 The badges Goldman’s security apparatus printed out for her visitors still referred to her as Michael, and at one point, Mr. Williams accidentally used the wrong pronoun. Emily Flitter, New York Times, "Being Transgender at Goldman Sachs," 21 June 2019 Although the scholarship’s collaborators use she/her/hers pronouns, applicants who use they/them/theirs are still encouraged to apply, according to the website. Kynala Phillips, Essence, "The Black Girl 44 Scholarship Is Leveling The Internship Playing Field," 19 June 2019 Just in time for June’s LGBTQ Pride month, Lyft has added gender-neutral pronouns to its app for transgender and non-binary identifying riders. Johnny Diaz,, "Uber and Lyft have new features that you might not know about," 4 June 2019 The new policy allows passengers to specify their preferred pronouns. Aj Willingham, CNN, "Lyft will now let passengers specify their preferred pronouns," 4 June 2019 KATU News reported that the person who was kicked out of the bar was Alex Schwarting, who is transgender, uses she/her pronouns, and uses women’s restrooms., "White Owl Social Club in Portland apologizes for throwing transgender person out of bar," 4 June 2019 Correction posted July 20, 2016 This report has been updated to correct Paul Ryan's title and the pronoun used to refer to pollster Whit Ayres. The Christian Science Monitor, "Corrections," 4 Mar. 2019

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 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 Encyclopedia article about pronoun

Comments on pronoun

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characterized by aphorism

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