From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Personal pronouns are pronouns often used as substitutes for proper or common nouns.
In English, it is usual to use personal pronouns when the context is already understood, or could easily be understood by reading the sentences that follow. For example, one does not normally use the word "he" to refer to somebody if the person reading or hearing the sentence does not know to whom one is referring.
In addition, personal pronouns must correspond to the correct gender and number of people or objects being described. Using the word "it" in English to refer to a person, for example, is usually considered extremely derogatory. It is generally not accepted to use a singular version of a pronoun for a plural noun, and vice versa.
In general, pronouns are used often, since too little of their usage can make a sentence very difficult to read.
In French, pronouns include tu, vous, ils, elles, lui, toi, moi, etc. There are different pronouns used for different genders and numbers of people, and unlike English where "them" and "they" are used for every object whether it is masculine or feminine, in French the plural forms vary according to gender. In addition, in French, different pronouns are used for indirect objects of a sentence than direct objects.
English personal pronouns
Ordinary English has seven personal pronouns: first-person singular (I), first-person plural (we), second-person (you), third-person singular masculine (he), third-person singular feminine (she), third-person singular neuter (it), and third-person plural (they). Each pronoun has a number of forms: a subjective case form (I/we/etc.), used when it's the subject of a finite verb; an objective case form (me/us/etc.), used when it's the object of verb or of a preposition; two possessive case forms (my/our/etc. and mine/ours/etc.), used when it's the possessor of another noun — one that's used as a determiner, and one that's used as a pronoun or a predicate adjective; and a reflexive form (myself/ourselves/etc.), which replaces the objective-case form in referring to the same entity as the subject. That said, the different pronouns, and the different forms of the pronouns, often have overlapping functions.
Distinctions made in personal pronouns
Common types of personal pronouns found the world's languages include:
- subjective pronouns:
- objective pronouns:
- direct and indirect object pronouns;
- reflexive pronouns;
- prepositional pronouns;
- disjunctive pronouns;
- possessive pronouns;
Pronouns usually show the basic distinctions of person (typically a three-way distinction between first, second, and third persons) and number (typically singular vs. plural), but they may also feature other categories such as case (nominative we vs. objective us in English), gender (masculine he vs. feminine she in English), and animacy or humanness (human who vs. nonhuman what in English). These can of course vary greatly. The English dialect spoken in Dorset uses ee for animates and er for inanimates.
Some languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns — those that do and do not include their audience, respectively. For example, Tok Pisin has seven first-person pronouns according to number (singular, dual, trial, plural) and inclusiveness/exclusiveness, such as mitripela (they two and I) and yumitripela (you two and I).
Slavic languages have two different third-person genitive pronouns (one reflexive, one not). For example, in Serbian:
- "Ana je dala Mariji svoju knjigu" — "Ana gave her-REFLEXIVE book to Maria" — i.e., "Ana gave her own book to Maria."
- "Ana je dala Mariji njenu knjigu" — "Ana gave her-NON-REFLEXIVE book to Maria" — i.e., "Ana gave Maria's book to her."
The pronoun may encode politeness and formality. Many languages have different pronouns for informal use or use among friends, and for formal use or use about/towards superiors, especially in the second person. A common pattern is the so-called T-V distinction (named after the use of pronouns beginning in t- and v- in Romance languages, as in French tu and vous).
It is very common for pronouns to show more grammatical distinctions than nouns. The Romance languages have lost the Latin grammatical case for nouns, but preserve the distinction in the pronouns. The same holds for English with respect to its Germanic ancestor.
It is also not uncommon for languages not to have third-person pronouns. In those cases the usual way to refer to third persons is by using demonstratives or full noun phrases. Latin made do without third-person pronouns, replacing them with demonstratives (which are in fact the source of third-person pronouns in all Romance languages).
Some languages, such as Japanese and Korean, lack pronouns entirely. In these languages, instead of pronouns, there is a small set of nouns that refer to the discourse participants (as pronouns do in other languages). These referential nouns are not usually used, with proper nouns, deictics, and titles being used instead. Usually, once the topic is understood, no explicit reference is made at all. In Japanese sentences, subjects are not obligatory, so the speaker chooses which word to use depending on the rank, job, age, gender, etc. of the speaker and the addressee. For instance, in formal situations, adults usually refer to themselves as watashi or the even more polite watakushi, while young men may use the student-like boku and police officers may use honkan ("this officer"). In informal situations, women may use the colloquial atashi, and men may use the rougher ore.
Null-subject and pro-drop languages
In some languages, a pronoun is required whenever a noun or noun phrase needs to be referenced, and sometimes even when no such antecedent exists (cf the dummy pronoun in English it rains). In many other languages, however, pronouns can be omitted when unnecessary or when context makes it clear who or what is being talked about. Such languages are called null-subject languages (when subject pronouns may be omitted), or pro-drop languages (when, more generally, subject or object pronouns may be omitted). In some cases the information about the antecedent is preserved in the verb, through its conjugation.
- Pronoun game
- Grammatical person
- Dummy pronoun
- Gender-neutral pronoun
- Gender-specific pronoun
- Gender neutral language
- Grammatical gender