We have already learned about two important groups of pro- nouns: the personal pronouns and the relative pronouns. In this chapter, we’ll examine the four other groups, which, though perhaps not as prominent in some grammars, are words that we need every day.
These pronouns are tricky to discuss in an orderly way because grammarians have different ways of sorting them out, and some pronouns fit into two or more categories, depending on the way we use them. (There’s that form and function idea again.) The relative pronoun who can also be an interrogative pronoun. The relative pronoun that can also be a demonstrative pronoun. So it goes.
THE REFLEXIVE PRONOUNS
The reflexive pronouns are compound words. In each one, the first part is a personal pronoun and the second part is always
–self. They are often used for emphasis:
I’ll do the job myself! All right, do it yourself.
He really should do it himself. We should all do it ourselves.
She herself told them to do it themselves!
Notice that in all the examples above, the reflexive pronouns are redundant—without them, the sentences would communicate the same meanings, but less emphatically. When used this way, the –self pronouns are often called intensifying pronouns. (In the last example above, by the way, herself is an appositive for she.)
Just as often, reflexive pronouns communicate something about the subjects of the sentence performing actions upon themselves—making the action reflexive:
Jim hurt himself.
June found herself in an enviable situation.
Emily and Roy removed themselves from the competition. Well, this vase didn’t break itself.
A bit later we will examine the indefinite pronouns, including one. We mention it here because one has the reflexive oneself (which is sometimes written one’s self):
One should take care of oneself.
As you see, the reflexive pronouns can be in the first, second, or third person. When the first part is plural, the second part is, too. That is, there is no ourself or themself, although you may sometimes hear people say those words. (There is also no hisself, but you’ll hear that, too.)
Use yourself or yourselves as the context requires.
THE DEMONSTRATIVE PRONOUNS
Demonstrative pronouns are four common and easy pro- nouns (usually used nominally, but sometimes adjectivally) that call attention to the antecedents. They are typically present in the immediate verbal or physical context:
This is the guilty person! That is the murderer!
These are his victims! Those were his motives!
He used these weapons on those victims for that reason! Officer, arrest this man!
These pronouns (that’s another one!) direct the audience’s attention to a particular word in the verbal context, or to a person or thing in the physical context.
THE INTERROGATIVE PRONOUNS
There are also the five familiar interrogative pronouns, which we use in questions every day:
Who threw that pie?
Which of you bozos threw that? At whom did he throw that?
Whose meringue pie was thrown? Hey, what happened to my pie?
Notice that these five are identical to the five relative pronouns— except for the relative that, which has been replaced by what.
As the examples show, these words (except the possessive whose) usually fill a nominal function in questions. In that way, they enable us to ask questions that can be answered with a noun. Several –ever pronouns (whoever, whichever, and whatever)
can also be used as interrogative pronouns:
Whoever would throw my pie? Whatever caused him to do it?
THE INDEFINITE PRONOUNS
The last and largest of the pronoun classes are the indefinite pronouns, which are indefinite because they are typically used without any clear, specific antecedents. They are sometimes organized into several overlapping groups.
There is usually little point in learning these subclasses of indefinite pronouns, but the subclasses give us a way to discuss these pronouns in an organized fashion.
The Indefinite Singulars:
These include the –body, –one, and –thing pronouns, and several negative pronouns:
Anybody, everybody, somebody, nobody Anyone, everyone, someone, no one Anything, everything, something, nothing
Among the indefinite singulars are also each, one, another, and none, and either and neither:
Everyone can have some dinner. Each of us should have some.
No one will be left out. Everybody will get plenty. Hey, I’ve got plenty of nothing.
The Indefinite Plurals:
These are any, some, and all; both, few, and several; and
enough, plenty, and more.
All of us are responsible.
Some of us should accept responsibility. At least a few accepted it.
Well, more should accept it.
Many are called, but few are chosen.
The Indefinite Portions:
These are all singular, and they all refer to a portion of something that cannot be counted out, but only measured in quantities, like Jell-O or mashed potatoes: all and none; little and less; much and more; and some, enough, and plenty.
Have you had some? Yes, but I’ll take more. You should take less.
Hey, I’ve still got plenty of nothing.
Well, nothing is plenty for you (said Porgy).
While the personal pronouns have a special possessive form, the possessives of some indefinite pronouns are formed by adding
–’s: one’s, everyone’s, nobody’s.
When else follows a pronoun (as in anybody else, everyone else, or no one else), it is considered part of the pronoun. In those cases, the possessive is formed by adding –’s to else: anybody else’s, everyone else’s, and no one else’s:
Do all these pronouns make anybody else’s head hurt?
Some authorities include among these indefinite pronouns a few words that we’ve seen before, the compound pronouns based on -ever: whoever, whomever, whichever, and whatever.
Like the preceding indefinite pronouns, the -ever pronouns can be used in statements containing no explicit antecedent—and are often used when the writer or speaker does not know the antecedent:
Whoever made this mess must clean it up! You can choose whichever you like.
Whatever it is (Groucho once said), I’m against it.
Similarly, the reciprocal pronouns may be indefinite or may refer to specific people, depending on the context.
There are only two reciprocals: each other and one another. By the strictest rules of usage, each other is used to refer to two people; one another should be used for three or more:
The Diefenbacher twins are always arguing with each other.
“If God loved us, my dear friends, we also must love one another.” (1 John 4: 11)
Finally, it (also a personal pronoun) is sometimes an indefinite pronoun, used idiomatically to refer vaguely to weather, general circumstances, or some unspecified subject in the context:
It may rain.
You could master any foreign language if you kept at it. Whatever it is (Groucho said again), I’m against it.
“So it goes,” said Mr. Vonnegut.
And, even more finally, many of the words in this chapter are also used adjectivally as well as nominally:
This door; that door. Some doors; all doors. Few doors; one door.
POINTS FOR WRITERS
They are everywhere.
Sometimes, especially in casual conversation and careless writing, we use they as an indefinite pronoun, referring (often negatively) to unspecified groups of people:
They are all against me! They are all part of a plot!
And, furthermore, they think I’m paranoid!
Avoid this vague, careless, and indefinite use of they (or they will get you).
Sometimes reflexive pronouns are absolutely necessary, as with certain verbs:
I pride myself on my knowledge of geography.
But we often use reflexives unnecessarily: I myself prefer my coffee black.
Using unnecessary reflexives is not a terrible error, but it doesn’t contribute anything to a sentence, either.
- The number of none.
Traditionally none has been declared a singular pronoun. Today none is often accepted as singular or plural, as the context and the writer’s intention require:
None of the players is [or are] here.