Morphological and stylistic classification

Classification of pronouns

All pronouns are divided into:

  • Simple

I, you, he, we, etc.; this, that, some, who, all, one, etc.

  • Compound

myself, themselves, somebody, everybody, anything, nothing, etc.

  • Composite

each other, one another

Patterns of morphological change in pronouns vary not only depending on subclass, but also within a certain subclass. That may be reflected in presence or absence of the categories of number (I – we, this – these), case (somebody – somebody’s; he – him), person and gender (specific for personal pronouns). The pronouns also have special forms to distinguish between animate and inanimate objects. This category can be found in personal, possessive, conjunctive, relative, interrogative pronouns.

Semantically all pronouns fall into the following subclasses:

(classification by Kobrina E.)

  • Personal pronouns
  • Reflexive pronouns
  • Possessive pronouns
  • Demonstrative pronouns
  • Reciprocal pronouns
  • Indefinite pronouns
  • Detaching pronouns
  • Universal pronouns
  • Interrogative pronouns
  • Conjunctive pronouns
  • Relative pronouns
  • Negative pronouns

Some other scholars do not separate reflexive and possessive pronouns from the group of personal pronouns. The pronoun it is sometimes analyzed separately from others due to its triple-nature. Depending on situation, it may act as a personal, demonstrative or impersonal pronoun.

Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns are noun-pronouns, indicating persons (I, you, he, we, they) or non-persons (it, they) from the point of view of their relation to the speaker. Thus I (me) indicates the speaker himself, we (us) indicates the speaker with some other person or persons, you indicates the person or persons addressed, while he, she, they (him, her, them) indicate persons (or things) which are neither the speaker nor the persons addressed to by the speaker.

Personal pronouns have the category of person, number, case (nominative and objective), and gender, the latter is to be found in the 3rd person only: masculine and feminine is he – him, she – her, neuter case-forms it-it coincide.

Here’s the table showing personal pronouns of basic Modern English

Singular – Plural

Subject – – Object

Reflexive – Subject – Object – Reflexive

First – I

me – myself – we

us – ourselves

Second – you

READ:  The historical background

you – yourself – you

you – yourselves

Third – Masculine – he

him – himself – they

them – themselves

– Feminine – she

her – herself

– Neuter – it

it – itself

Possessive pronouns

Possessive pronouns indicate possession by person or non-person. They comprise two sets of forms: the conjoint forms – my, your, his, her, our, their, which always combine with nouns and premodify them as attributes and the absolute forms – mine, yours, his, hers, ours, yours, theirs, which do not combine with nouns, but function as their substitutes. Thus, they may be adjective-pronouns when used as conjoint forms and noun-pronouns when used as absolute forms. However there’s no absolute form corresponding to the pronoun it.

Reflexive pronouns

Reflexive pronouns indicate identity between the person or non-person they denote and that denoted by the subject of the sentence. They are: myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, derived from personal pronouns and oneself, derived from the indefinite pronoun one.

Reciprocal pronouns

Reciprocal pronouns indicate a mutual relationship between two or more than two persons, or occasionally non-persons (each other, one another) who are at the same time the doer and the object of the same action.

Demonstrative pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns point to persons or non-persons or their properties: this (these), that (those), such. The first two of them have the category of number. This (these) and that (those) function both as noun-pronouns and adjective-pronouns; such functions only as an adjective-pronoun.

Indefinite pronouns

Indefinite pronouns indicate persons or non-persons or else their properties in general way without defining the class of object they belong to, class or properties they possess. They are: some, any, somebody, anybody, something, anything, one.

Negative pronouns

Negative pronouns as the term implies render the general meaning of the sentence negative.

They are: no, none, nothing, nobody, no one, neither. No is used only as an adjective-pronoun, none, nothing, nothing , nobody, no one as noun-pronoun, neither may be used as both adjective-pronouns and noun-pronouns. Only two negative pronouns have the category of case – nobody and no one.

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Detaching pronouns

Detaching pronouns indicate the detachment of some object from another object of the same class. There are only two pronouns of this subclass – other and another. They are both used as noun – pronouns and adjective-pronouns.

Universal pronouns

Universal pronouns indicate all objects (persons and non-persons) as one whole or any representative of the group separately. They are: all, both, each, every, everything, everybody, everyone, either. Only pronouns everybody and everyone have the category of case (everybody – everybody’s, everyone – everyone’s), others have no grammatical categories.

Interrogative pronouns

Interrogative pronouns indicate persons or non-persons or their properties as unknown to the speaker and requiring to be named in the answer. Accordingly they are used to form special (or pronominal) questions. The subclass of pronouns comprises who, whose, what, which, whoever, whatever, whichever. Of them only the pronoun who has the category of case – the objective case is whom. However there is a strong tendency in colloquial language to use who instead of whom with prepositions.

Conjunctive pronouns

This subclass comprises derivatives of interrogative pronouns: whom, whose, what, which, whoever, whatever, whichever. They are identical with their interrogative pronouns in all characteristics. The difference between the two classes lies in that the conjunctive pronouns, along with their syntactical function in the clause, connect subordinate clause to the main clause.

Relative pronouns

Relative pronouns refer to persons or non-persons and open attributive clauses which modify words denoting these persons or non-persons and open attributive clauses which modify words denoting these persons or non-persons. They are who, whose, which, that. Who, like its homonyms, has the category of case (who – whom), the others have no categories.

Classification of numerals

The numeral denote an abstract number or the order of things in succession. In accordance with this distinction the numerals fall into two groups:

– cardinal numbers (cardinals)

– ordinal numbers (ordinals)

Cardinal numbers in their turn may be simple, derived and compound words.

Simple cardinals comprise numbers from one to twelve, also hundred, thousand, million.

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Among derived we may single out cardinals from thirteen to nineteen. These numerals are built with use of a derivation suffixes –teen and –ty (the latter denotes tens)

The cardinals from twenty-one to twenty-nine, from thirty-one to thirty-nine etc. and those over hundred are compounds.

In cardinals including hundreds and thousands the words denoting units and tens are joined to those denoting hundreds, thousands, by means of the conjunction and.

The words for common fractions are written hyphenated. The mixed numbers as well as numbers with thousands and hundreds are connected with the conjunction and. In decimal fractions the numerals denoting decimals are joined to those denoting whole numbers by means of the words point or decimal

Ordinal numbers are also divided into simple, derived and compound ones.

To simple ordinals we can put first, second and third

Derived ordinal numbers comprise those derived from the simple, and derivative cardinals by means of the suffix –th.

The compound ordinals are formed from composite cardinals where only the last component has the form of the ordinal.

Numerals do not undergo any morphological changes which are caused by the absence of any morphological categories. However there are some features that differ them from nouns. Such numerals as ten, hundred, thousand do not have plural forms whereas the corresponding homonymous nouns ten, hundred, thousand do have these form.


According to Korbina E. all pronouns may be divided into twelve subclasses. However, some other scholars restrict the number of these subclasses to ten, pointing reflexive and possessive pronouns to be essential constituents of the subclass of personal pronouns. Pronouns of other subclasses are grouped according to their function and, sometimes, to their morphological structure.

Numerals can be divided into cardinal numbers and ordinal numbers. They may be simple, derived and compound. Derivatives are formed with the affixes –teen, and –ty for cardinal numbers and –th for ordinal. In the latter the affix is added to the cardinal number to form an ordinal one.