Pronouns are words that replace nouns and noun phrases, allowing us to refer to people, objects, or ideas without repetitive use. It can vary based on the grammatical person (first, second, or third), number (singular or plural), and gender (such as he, she, they, or gender-neutral options).
What are pronouns? Meaning and explanation
Pronouns are a fundamental part of language, enabling us to refer to people and objects without repetitive use of nouns. They serve as substitutes for proper nouns (names) and are vital in improving communication clarity and efficiency.
By using it, we avoid constantly repeating names and maintain a smooth flow of conversation.
For example, instead of saying, “John went to the store, and then John bought groceries”, we can use pronouns and say, “John went to the store, and then he bought groceries”.
This reduces redundancy and allows for a more concise and fluid expression of ideas.
Some examples of pronouns include:
Personal pronouns are commonly used in everyday language to refer to people. They vary based on grammatical person, number, and gender.
Here are the three grammatical persons:
- First-person pronouns: Refer to the speaker and include “I”, “me”, and “myself”. For example: “I went to work”.
- Second-person pronouns: Address the person being spoken to and include “you” and “yourself”. For example: “You should not come with me”.
- Third-person pronouns: Refer to someone or something not present and include “he”, “she”, “they”, “him”, “her”, and “them”. For example: “She is a talented actress”.
Relative pronouns help us provide additional information about someone or something in a sentence. They connect relative clauses to independent clauses, allowing for a clearer and more coherent expression of thoughts.
- “I saw a dog that was chasing its tail”.
In this case, the relative pronoun “that” introduces the relative clause “… that was chasing its tail”. It provides crucial information about the specific dog being referred to and clarifies the action it was engaged in.
Without the use of the relative pronoun, the sentence would lack specificity, and the intended meaning may be unclear.
Relative pronouns include the following words:
- That – “The car that she bought was black”.
- Which – “The movie, which was released last week, received mixed reviews”.
- Who – “The woman who is standing over there is my sister”.
- Whom – “The person to whom the package was addressed was not available”.
- What – “Tell me what you want for your birthday”.
Pronouns in relation to gender identity
In recent times, there has been a broader and more descriptive use of pronouns.
You might have noticed it listed in email signatures or your colleagues’ and friends’ social media profiles. That is because it has become common to include pronouns in personal profiles and communications to express one’s gender identity more accurately.
Gender-neutral pronouns like they/them/theirs and zie/hir/hirs are increasingly used by individuals who feel these pronouns better represent their gender identity.
In particular, the singular “they” has become a widely accepted gender-neutral pronoun. It is commonly used in various contexts and serves as a catch-ann pronoun that fits well in most sentences.
It facilitate inclusive language and respect for individuals’ gender identities.
Gender pronouns (also known as personal gender pronouns or preferred gender pronouns) are pronouns people choose to identify themselves with based on their gender identity.
While traditional gender pronouns have typically been associated with binary genders (male and female), it is important to acknowledge and respect those who identify outside of this binary (non-binary).
Gender-inclusive pronouns include the following:
- They/Them: These are gender-neutral and can be used to refer to individuals regardless of their gender identity. For example: “They are a talented artist”.
- Ze/Hir: These are an alternative to “he” or “she” and are used by individuals who do not identify with traditional gender categories. For example: “Ze prefers to go by hir pronouns”.
- He/She: These are traditionally used to refer to individuals based on their perceived gender. It is important to respect and use these pronouns when individuals specifically identify with them.
How to use gender pronouns
When you’re interacting with others, it is essential to use their preferred gender pronouns to create a respectful and inclusive environment. It is similar to correctly spelling or pronouncing someone’s name – it acknowledges that they are the authority on their identity and expression.
By referring to them with the pronouns they have requested, you affirm their self-identification.
Here are some general guidelines that might be helpful to keep in mind:
- Ask and listen: If you are unsure about someone’s gender pronouns, respectfully ask them what they prefer. Listen attentively and make an effort to use the correct pronouns.
- Practice and normalize: Incorporate the use of gender pronouns in your everyday language to normalize their usage. By doing so, you help create a welcoming space for individuals of all gender identities.
- Avoid assumptions: Do not assume someone’s gender pronouns based on their appearance or other factors. Respect their self-identification and use what they specify.