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Jane Mairs, Director of English language Learning Publishing
Nouns and pronouns
Wednesday March 14th 2012
Question
Nouns and pronouns
Answer

Question

Several users have asked about the difference between nouns and pronouns. Below is a brief overview of these two kinds of words.

Answer

Nouns
Nouns are the names of things, people, animals, places, qualities, actions, and ideas. They are usually single words, but not always. The words below are all nouns:

  • cake
  • shoes
  • literacy
  • school bus
  • post-traumatic stress disorder


A noun phrase is a string of words, consisting of a noun plus any modifiers, that functions as a noun in a sentence. A noun phrase can act as a subject or an object. In the sentence below, "ten of her friends from college" is a noun phrase that acts as the object of the verb invited.

Rachel invited ten of her friends from college to her wedding.

 

Pronouns
A pronoun is a word that is used instead of a noun or noun phrase. Pronouns refer to nouns that have already been mentioned or are about to be mentioned. For instance, in example 1, below, the pronoun she in the 2nd sentence refers to the noun phrase the school principal in the 1st sentence. In example 2, he in the 1st clause refers to Nathan in the 2nd clause. 

  1. The school principal spoke at the special assembly in the auditorium. She also asked some students to speak.
  2. After he handed in his exam, Nathan was both anxious and relieved at the same time.


The most common pronouns are the personal pronouns. They are divided into subject pronouns, like she, which are used as the subjects of verbs, and object pronouns, like her, which are used as objects of verbs and of prepositions.  The subject and object pronouns are listed below.

Subject pronouns    Object pronouns
I                                   me
you                              you
he/she/it                      him/her/it
we                               us
they                             them

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