Instructional Systems
Traditional English Grammar

Unit I
Parts of Speech Continued:
Nouns and Pronouns


A NOUN names a person (boy, girl, teacher, student, soldier, Charles), a place (city, parks, seashore, forest, church, Paris, America), a thing (pencil, book, tree, road, car), an animal (dog, cattle, chicken, spider), a quality (love, faith, hatred, fear).

A noun functions in a sentence primarily as a subject or as a complement that completes the meaning of a verb or preposition.

Consider the following sentence:

Here you see three nouns used as a subject, as a complement of the verb, and as a complement of a preposition respectively.

A noun may be compound (made up of two or more words): mother-in-law, bookcase, dropout, paper-boy, breakthrough.

A noun may be formed from a verb: studying, flying, sailing, reading.

All nouns are either proper or common. Proper nouns are capitalized: Louise, English, Latin, Negro, Indian, Lutheran, Central High School.

Common nouns are not capitalized: name, city, language, country, race, religion, school, church.

A noun is concrete or abstract. A concrete noun is tangible. It has substance; you can touch it, see it: Louise, car, flower, park, road.

An abstract noun is the name of a quality, condition, or idea: democracy, fear, poverty, love, intelligence, patriotism.

A noun is individual (letter, book, soldier, table, picture, man, woman) or collective (group, flock, congregation, army, class, club).

Noun Gender

A noun is one of three genders:

Often we use a noun that can be both masculine and feminine. These nouns are indeterminate or common gender. The word is common to both a male and a female: person, inhabitant, voter, doctor, teacher, dog, horse, child.

Noun Case

The three cases are these: subjective, objective, and possessive.

Helpful Hints for Recognizing a Noun


A pronoun is a word used in place of a noun. You would not say this:

Instead you would use pronouns:

The word that the pronoun replaces is called its antecedent. There are several kinds of pronouns: personal, relative, interrogative, demonstrative, indefinite, reflexive, intensive.

Personal Pronouns

The personal pronoun is the most familiar and most commonly used pronoun. It has more inflection (more changes in form) than any other pronoun.

The correct form of a personal pronoun depends upon its person, number, gender, and case. The antecedent determines the person, number, and gender. The use of the pronoun in the sentence (subject, direct object , object of preposition, modifier, etc.) determines its case. Consider this sentence:

The pronoun them is neuter gender, plural number, and third person because of the antecedent notes. But them is objective case because it is the direct object of the verb lost.

Relative Pronouns

The most frequently used relative pronouns are who, which, and that. The relative pronoun introduces a dependent clause. It relates (thus the word relative) this dependent clause to the antecedent, which is in another clause. Note the relative pronoun and its antecedent in the following sentences:

NOTE: The relative pronoun who is usually used to refer to people. Which is usually used to refer to anything non-human. that can be used to refer to any antecedent.

Interrogative Pronouns

The interrogative pronoun is used in direct and indirect questions. The pronouns that ask questions are what, who, whom, whose, which. The interrogative pronouns are italicized in the following sentences.

Note that the interrogative pronoun has no antecedent before it and thus does not introduce an adjective clause. The dependent clauses in sentences 1, 3, and 4 above are noun clauses used as direct objects. An interrogative pronoun often introduces a noun clause.

Demonstrative Pronouns

The demonstrative pronoun points out. The four demonstrative pronouns are this, that, these, those.

(Don't confuse the demonstrative adjective these which modifies words in this sentence-with a pronoun.)

Indefinite Pronoun

The indefinite pronoun is so called because the antecedent is not quite clear; that is, it is not a definite person, place, or thing. Look at the following pronouns.

There are many indefinite pronouns: something, nothing, someone, most, few, many, either, neither, both, each, etc. Don't confuse an indefinite pronoun with a noun. Don't call an indefinite adjective a pronoun: both problems, few lessons, neither child, each day, for example, are adjectives when they modify nouns.

Reflexive Pronouns

The reflexive pronoun is so called because it always reflects the subject; however, it is always an object of some kind.

Intensive Pronouns

The intensive pronoun is so-called because it intensifies or emphasizes its antecedent. It acts as an appositive and is most often found in the "appositive" position, that is, directly following the noun it intensifies.

Note that the reflexive and intensive pronouns look alike but differ in use. Sometimes these two pronouns are called compound personal pronouns because they are made up of two words: a personal pronoun plus self (selves). Here is a list of the compound personal pronouns:

Avoid hisself, theirselves, theirself'. These forms are illiterate.
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