Pronouns: Relative, Reflexive, Interrogative & Possessive


Nouns or naming words, when used repetitively over and over again, make the sentences long and boring. On the other hand, when Nouns are replaced by Pronouns after they are first introduced in the sentence, the sentences are easy to follow and have a flow to them. They make it easier for the message to be put across. These Pronouns have a number of sub divisions- over twelve but the most important among those are Relative Pronouns, Reflexive Pronouns, Interrogative Pronouns and Possessive Pronouns each of which have their distinct features. While some Pronouns may fall into more than one category, it is the situation in which they are used that make the difference.

What are Pronouns?

There are eight parts of speech in the English Language, the most widely used among which are Nouns and whenever we talk about Nouns, we need to talk about Pronouns because no passage in English can be complete without it. Nouns name people, things, animals and places and Pronouns name Nouns. While the most important types of Pronouns are Interrogative Pronouns, Relative Pronouns, Reflexive Pronouns and Possessive Pronouns, people have now started using gender specific Personal Pronouns to make it easier for others to know which Pronouns to use to address them. While the ones who identify themselves as a woman ask to be addressed using Personal pronouns She and her, the ones who identify themselves as a man adopt the Pronouns he and him and the ones who are gender fluid, use the Pronouns They and them to identify themselves.

Sub Categories of Pronouns

Pronouns have several sub categories but the most widely used among them are the ones that will be dealt with in this tutorial. Interrogative Pronouns ask questions, Relative Pronouns reveal the relation, Reflexive Pronouns self-reflect and Possessive Pronouns reveal who possesses.

Relative Pronouns

Relative Pronoun shows the relation of a noun with its adjective. It supervises the adjective that follows it. Words like who, whose, which, that, whom are all Relative Pronouns. Let us now look at how they are used in a sentence to make it easier for you to identify it when you see one −

  • The boy who studied at Hogwards is back.

  • Her sister whose beautiful clothes she borrows is back from Paris.

  • My Red Fur coat, which I sold yesterday, found its way back to me today.

  • The girl that you slapped stole your cap.

  • The receptionist whom I appointed on contract is very hard working.

Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive Pronouns have the suffix ‘self’ or ‘selves’ in them.

Reflexive pronouns are pronouns which act upon the object which is the subject itself. Yourself, Myself, Herself, Himself, Itself, Ourselves, themselves are all Reflexive Pronouns which are acted upon by the Subject which is a Noun. Some examples of Reflexive Pronouns are given below −

  • You are looking at yourself.

  • I am all by myself.

  • She bit herself.

  • He is killing himself.

  • The cat hit itself.

  • We think about ourselves the most.

  • They brought it upon themselves.

While reflexive pronouns stress on the object and are rendered incomplete when eliminated from the sentence, the usage of the ‘self’ version of pronouns as an addition, the removal of which will not change the structure of the sentence, is not a Reflexive pronoun. For example, in the sentence, ‘We can do it ourselves’, ‘ourselves’ is not a Reflexive Pronoun as its removal from the sentence does not change its structure. ‘We can do it’ is a correct sentence even without ‘ourselves’.

Interrogative Pronouns

Interrogative Pronouns ask questions which have Pronouns or Nouns as an answer.

Interrogative Pronouns are Pronouns that deal with asking questions. Questions words Who, Which, What, Whose, Whom, Whoever, Whichever, Whatever, Whosever, Whomsoever are all Interrogative Pronouns.

A few examples of Interrogative Pronouns usage are as follows −

  • Who came today?

  • Which seagull is yours?

  • What is this?

  • Whose is this?

  • Whom do you think you’re talking to?

  • Whoever do you think asked this question?

  • Whatever did you do?

  • Whosoever did you talk to?

  • Whomsoever plucked this flower?

The most important thing you need to remember when identifying an Interrogative Pronoun is that all questions with W Question words are not Interrogative Pronouns. Interrogative Determiners and Interrogative Adverbs are often confused to be Interrogative Pronouns.

Here are a few examples to help you tell them apart −

  • Interrogative Determiners − ‘Which colour was the most beautiful?’ (Here, ‘Which’ is an Interrogative Determiner that brings about a change in the Noun ‘colour’, something which Interrogative Pronouns do not do).

  • Interrogative Adverb − ‘Why do you think that colour was the most beautiful?’ (The reply to this question will always be a description using an adverb. For example, ‘I think that colour was the most beautiful because...’).

  • Interrogative Pronoun − ‘Which colour is this?’ (This sentence, an example of Interrogative Pronoun, always answers the question using a noun or pronoun. For example, ‘This colour is Red’. The secret tip to identifying the Interrogative pronoun is trying to answer the question and checking if the answer is a Noun or Pronoun)

Possessive Pronouns

Mine’ and ‘Yours’ are Possessive Pronouns.

Possessive Pronouns indicate towards the owner of the possession. Mine, Yours, its, Hers, His, Ours, Thiers are all pronouns that reveal the ownership of a thing and are, therefore, Possessive Pronouns. Possessive Pronouns do not have an apostrophe in them and putting an apostrophe changes the possessive pronoun into a Personal Pronoun.

A few examples of the usage of Personal Pronouns in sentences are given below −

  • This dog is mine.

  • This pen is yours.

  • This is its food.

  • This cap is hers.

  • That file is his.

  • These hangers are ours.

  • These beds are theirs.


While pronouns are parts of speech whose prime function is to replace nouns after their initial introduction, the circumstances in which they are used make it necessary for them to be divided into categories, the most important among which have been discussed in this tutorial. Relative Pronouns make the link or relation between the subject and object known, Reflexive Pronouns emphasize the ‘self’ and prove to be an important part of any sentence contributing to meaning change upon its elimination, Interrogatory Pronouns ask questions which have a Noun or a Pronoun as their reply and Possessive Pronouns let the ownership of a thing be known. Together, they contribute to making the English Language more nuanced and rich.


Q1. What Pronouns belong to more than one category?

Ans. Pronouns like ‘who’ belong to the category of both Relative and Interrogative Pronouns depending on its usage. There are many other such pronouns.

Q2. How to differentiate between Possessive Pronouns and Possessive adjectives?

Ans. Possessive Pronouns can become possessive adjectives in sentences like ‘This is my wand’ where my is both a pronoun as well as an adjective.

Q3. How many types of pronouns are there?

Ans. There are twelve main categories of Pronouns.

Updated on: 26-Apr-2023


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