A personal pronoun refers to a specific person or thing. It indicates the speaker (first person), the person being addressed (second person), or another person or thing being discussed (third person).
Personal pronouns also express number, as they can be either singular or plural.
The pronoun I indicates the speaker, so this is a first person pronoun.
This example uses a second person pronoun, as it indicates the person being addressed by using you.
In this example, he and them refer to the Sasquatch and potatoes, respectively. He is singular, as it indicates the sole Sasquatch, and them is plural, as it refers to multiple potatoes. These are third person pronouns.
Notice how in the last example he expresses gender in addition to expressing number. This is because some third person pronouns also express gender. He and him are masculine; she and her are feminine. It expresses neither gender.
Exception: Singular “They”
For centuries, people have used they and them as singular pronouns. Many people do this when they don’t know the gender of the person about whom they are speaking or writing.
The doctor performed emergency surgery in the morning, and they checked on their intensive care patients in the afternoon.
Though it was, and still is, incredibly common to use they in this way, it was considered grammatically incorrect by grammar sticklers until recently. That changed in 2019 when Merriam-Webster added an entry for they as a singular, gender-neutral third person pronoun. Included in this new definition is the pronoun for a person whose gender identity is nonbinary.
This is my friend, Grant. They are a doctor.
In this example, Grant’s gender identity is nonbinary, so the speaker uses their preferred pronoun they.
A possessive pronoun takes the place of the possessive form of a noun. It indicates ownership or possession.
Some possessive pronouns are used before nouns, while others can be used by themselves.
In this example, the possessive pronoun his replaces the possessive noun Edgar’s. Both are used to indicate ownership of the potato salad recipe.
In this example, the possessive pronouns mine, yours, and ours do not precede a noun, though they do proclaim ownership of the potato.
Notice how possessive pronouns do not contain apostrophes.
Parts of speech
Hey, ELA Teachers! Check out the classroom resources for parts of speech and other ELA concepts at the Super ELA! Teachers Pay Teachers store.