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Grammatical Functions of Pronouns

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Struggling with English pronouns? You're not alone

Struggling with English pronouns? You're not alone

The Functions of Pronouns

By definition, a pronoun is a word that is used in place of a noun or a noun phrase. Pronouns, therefore, take the positions of nouns in sentences. For example, instead of saying: “Peter is the thief”, I can replace the noun “Peter” with the pronoun “he” and form a sentence like this: “He is the thief”.

There are several types of pronouns in the English language. Kinds of pronouns include personal pronouns, reflexive pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, relative pronouns, indefinite pronouns, interrogative pronouns, etc.

We will take a look at the different types of pronouns in another lesson, but in this lesson, we want to focus all our attention on the grammatical functions of pronouns.

What is the grammatical function of a pronoun?

The grammatical function of a pronoun is said to be the work or the job that the pronoun is doing in a sentence.

Pronouns can perform any of the following five functions:

  • Subject of the verb
  • Object of the verb
  • Complement of the verb
  • Object of the preposition
  • Apposition to a noun

Let us now take a look at each of these functions of a pronoun one after the other.

Pronoun functioning as the subject of a verb

Here, the pronoun will always come before the main verb in the sentence. It is also the one the entire sentence focuses on. Simply put, whenever a pronoun is used as the subject in a sentence, then it functions as the subject of a verb.


  • He is very sick.
  • You may let them come in.
  • I hate the way the movie ended.
  • She likes me.
  • It is a shame the way you mistreat the child.
  • They love soccer.
  • We voted for Barack Obama in the last election.

All the highlighted pronouns in the sentences above are all subjects and they are therefore functioning as subjects of their respective verbs. For example, in sentence 1, the pronoun “he” is functioning as the subject to the verb “is”.

Pronoun functioning as the object of a verb

A pronoun will function as an object of a verb when it comes after an action verb and receives the action of the verb.

Examples of pronouns functioning as objects of verbs include the following:

  • James slapped me.
  • I kissed her.
  • Elton likes her a lot.
  • The hunter killed it.
  • You showed him the money.
  • The security spotted us.

Each of the highlighted pronouns above functions as an object of the verb coming before it. They are all objects because they are receiving action from their respective action verbs.

Pronoun functioning as a complement of a verb

When a pronoun functions as a complement of a verb, what it basically does is it comes after a linking verb or state-of-being verb and receives no action from the verb.

Examples of pronouns functioning as complements of verbs include the following:

  • The thief was he.
  • It was I who called you last night.
  • The winner was he.
  • The visitor was she.
  • The men arrested in China were they.
  • It was you.

Every highlighted pronoun in the sentences above is functioning as a complement of the verb preceding it. The reason they are complements is that they come after linking verbs and state-of-being verbs and are receiving no action from these verbs.

Pronoun functioning as object of the preposition

When a pronoun functions as an object of a preposition, it comes after a preposition. Any pronoun coming after a preposition is the object of the preposition.

Examples are as follows:

  • I bought the book for her.
  • The teacher is angry with us.
  • I want to go with you.
  • It is for you.
  • I took a picture of her.
  • Please give it to me.

The words for, with, of, and to are all prepositions. It therefore goes without saying that all the highlighted pronouns coming after them are objects of the prepositions. For example, in the first sentence, the pronoun “her” is functioning as the object of the preposition “for”.

Pronoun functioning in apposition to a noun

When a pronoun functions in apposition to a noun, it comes after a noun in the sentence or statement and renames the noun or tells readers something more about the noun. Examples of pronouns functioning in apposition to nouns include the following:

  • The boys, those who killed the dog, have gone.
  • My friends, those who stood by me, have all been rewarded.

The pronoun “those” is functioning in apposition to the noun “boys” in the first sentence and the noun “friends” in the second sentence.

You can clearly see that the pronoun “those” can be used to rename the nouns in the sentences above.

NOTE: Of all the functions of pronouns, it is the last function that is rarely used in sentences.

Now that you have seen the various grammatical functions of the pronoun, let us see if you can tell the grammatical functions of the pronouns in the sentences below:

  • Jesus, he knows me.
  • Come with me.
  • Please remind me when we get there.
  • I hate what you are doing to yourself.
  • I think I love you.
  • The captain of the team is he.
  • He is my friend.
  • Do you believe in him?
  • We hate it when our friends become successful.
  • I will buy a bicycle for you if you pass your examinations.


uzairu suleiman on July 03, 2020:

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Ahmed Botani on March 06, 2020:

What is your name please?

Your exact name??

Rafida on January 28, 2020:


Ebere Grace on June 12, 2019:


Please help me, what is d grammatical names for these in bracket....

1 .. It was he (who slappes her)

2... He left the letter(where it could be easily be seen)

3...The police officer caught th thief (in the garden)

4...(whoever wins the election) will be my friend

Abigail Sekyi on May 25, 2019:

Awesome page

Kofi Karikari on April 07, 2019:

Hi myvenn! I agree with you on all the answers you have given with the exception of number 4 "that my redeemer lives" is a noun clause but it functions as an object of the verb "know" . Take note, all noun phrases and clauses which function as a complement are always preceded by a primary auxiliary verbs.

Sir Kb on March 13, 2019:


sergey on January 26, 2019:

This is my bag. -- which function does 'my' have?

Ruth on October 29, 2018:

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Chloe on September 26, 2018:


Beautiful on September 13, 2018:

This did not even help me at all with my homework

Ositadimma on September 12, 2018:

Excellent lesson. Thanks

Mehr on September 02, 2018:

Thanks for this lesson

Hannah on July 23, 2018:

What is the grammatical function of Jesus he knows me?

Joe on July 06, 2018:

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Esther on November 06, 2017:

Thanks for the lesson I gained something

sana on October 16, 2017:

thanks for this lesson

myvenn (author) from Ghana on October 08, 2017:

Hi Theodore, the grammatical names and functions of the (phrases/clauses) in the sentences below are as follows:

1. “A bag of rice” is a noun phrase and it functions as the subject of the verb “is”.

2. “Three interesting books” is a noun phrase and it functions as the object of the verb “bought”.

3. “A good mathematics teacher” is a noun phrase and it functions as the complement of the verb “was”.

4. “That my redeemer lives” is a noun clause and it functions as the complement of the verb “know”.

5. “Whatever they did at the beach” is a noun clause and it functions as the subject of the verb “was”.

Theodore on October 08, 2017:

Please help me determine the grammatical names and their functions in the statements below

1. A bag of rice is enough (A bag of Rice)

2. Daniel bought (three interesting love books)

3. She was (a good mathematics teacher) in the school

4. I know (that my redeemer lives)

5. (Whatever they did at the beach) was recorded

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Collins Erzah on February 15, 2016:

I love this explaintion

Recinda on October 23, 2015:

Correction - The visitor was SHE (not her); this is a predicate nominative, so the writer must use the subjective/nominative case of the third person feminine pronoun: she.

Izoo on April 29, 2015:

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