Pronouns – much better than amateur ones

pronoun dog

A pronoun is a word which takes the place of a noun. It is used to avoid gawky, repetitive sentences. The word comes from the Latin ‘pro’ meaning ‘for’ or ‘on behalf of’ and of course if you have read our previous blog on nouns, you will know that ‘nomen’ means ‘name’.

There are various types of pronouns, the most basic of which you will find explained in detail below:

Personal pronouns – they include

  • number: singular (eg: I) or plural (eg: we)
  • person: 1st person (eg: I), 2nd person (eg: you) or 3rd person (eg: he)
  • gender: male (eg: he), female (eg: she) or neuter (eg: it)
  • case: subject (eg: we) or object (eg: us)

Other kinds of pronouns include:

Intensive pronoun, as in ‘I myself can see it’

Reflexive pronoun, as in ‘I myself can see myself

Relative pronoun, such as ‘who’, ‘which’ and ‘that’; for example, Mr Morris’ gnarly tattoo saying ‘He who dares’ and ‘The thing that he dares to do’. Furthermore, relative pronouns can be used as conjunctions which join clauses together, as ‘We have found the mongoose that you were looking for.’

Demonstrative pronouns, such as ‘this’ and ‘that’, as in the famous whimsical proclamation from Hamlet ‘To be or not to be: that is the question’.

Interrogative pronouns, such as ‘who’, ‘whoever’, ‘which’, and ‘what’, but this time starting a question, as in ‘Who the devil made that smell?’, ‘Whoever could have stolen my favourite gerbil?’ and of course, ‘What the deuce?’

Indefinite pronouns, do not refer to any specific person, thing or amount. They are vague and “not definite”; some typical indefinite pronouns are: ‘all’, ‘another’, ‘any’, ‘anybody/anyone’, ‘anything’, ‘each’, ‘everybody/everyone’, ‘everything’, ‘few’, ‘many’, ‘nobody’, ‘none’, ‘one’, ‘several’, ‘some’, ‘somebody/someone’

Possessive pronouns – we use possessive pronouns to refer to a specific person/people or thing/things (the “antecedent”) belonging to a person/people (and sometimes belonging to an animal/animals or thing/things). We use possessive pronouns depending on:

  • number: singular (eg: mine) or plural (eg: ours)
  • person: 1st person (eg: mine), 2nd person (eg: yours) or 3rd person (eg: his)
  • gender: male (his), female (hers)


  1. Read the following poem by Robert Browning and identify all the different types of pronouns.
  2. Next, zoom in and analyse the different effects they have on the reader
  3. In the comments section below, decide whether you agree with this statement, and provide evidence to support your opinion: the poem has a disturbing effect as we gain intimate insight into the mind of a would-be killer and are horrified by her intended actions and lack of regard for her potential victims


The Laboratory

Ancien Régime


Now that I, tying thy glass mask tightly,

May gaze thro’ these faint smokes curling whitely,

As thou pliest thy trade in this devil’s-smithy—

Which is the poison to poison her, prithee?


He is with her, and they know that I know

Where they are, what they do: they believe my tears flow

While they laugh, laugh at me, at me fled to the drear

Empty church, to pray God in, for them!—I am here.


Grind away, moisten and mash up thy paste,

Pound at thy powder,—I am not in haste!

Better sit thus, and observe thy strange things,

Than go where men wait me and dance at the King’s.


That in the mortar—you call it a gum?

Ah, the brave tree whence such gold oozings come!

And yonder soft phial, the exquisite blue,

Sure to taste sweetly,—is that poison too?


Had I but all of them, thee and thy treasures,

What a wild crowd of invisible pleasures!

To carry pure death in an earring, a casket,

A signet, a fan-mount, a filigree basket!


Soon, at the King’s, a mere lozenge to give,

And Pauline should have just thirty minutes to live!

But to light a pastile, and Elise, with her head

And her breast and her arms and her hands, should drop dead!


Quick—is it finished? The colour’s too grim!

Why not soft like the phial’s, enticing and dim?

Let it brighten her drink, let her turn it and stir,

And try it and taste, ere she fix and prefer!


What a drop! She’s not little, no minion like me!

That’s why she ensnared him: this never will free

The soul from those masculine eyes,—Say, “no!”

To that pulse’s magnificent come-and-go.


For only last night, as they whispered, I brought

My own eyes to bear on her so, that I thought

Could I keep them one half minute fixed, she would fall

Shrivelled; she fell not; yet this does it all!


Not that I bid you spare her the pain;

Let death be felt and the proof remain:

Brand, burn up, bite into its grace—

He is sure to remember her dying face!


Is it done? Take my mask off! Nay, be not morose;

It kills her, and this prevents seeing it close;

The delicate droplet, my whole fortune’s fee!

If it hurts her, beside, can it ever hurt me?


Now, take all my jewels, gorge gold to your fill,

You may kiss me, old man, on my mouth if you will!

But brush this dust off me, lest horror it brings

Ere I know it—next moment I dance at the King’s!


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