Pronominal Adjectives

Pronouns and certain function words are frequently used to modify nouns. They precede nouns and determine or limit their meaning. They are sometimes called “limiting adjectives” in traditional grammar.

Personal Pronouns: “This is my car.” “He found her purse.”

Relative Pronouns: “The neighbor whose dog is barking came home.” “Whichever wine you select, the dinner guests will probably like it.”

Interrogative Pronouns: “Which flavor do you want?” “What decision will the court make?”

Demonstrative Pronouns: “That sort of thing is good to avoid.” “Those apples are delicious.”

Indefinite Pronouns: “Any time off will be good.” “Some situations are best avoided.” “The other clerk was more helpful.” “Few people care.”

To determine whether a pronoun is used as a pronominal adjective or as an actual pronoun is a simple matter of determining if it modifies a noun or is used as a noun.

PRONOMINAL ADJECTIVEPRONOUN
That politician is corrupt.That is a corrupt politician.
Which wine is better?Which is better?
The other car is faster.The other is faster.
This is my coat.This coat is mine.

The shorter forms of possessive pronouns (my, our, your, her, their, in contrast to mine, ours, yours, hers, theirs) are pronominal adjectives because they are always used as modifiers of nouns.

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Adjectives

An adjective is a word that describes a noun or modifies its meaning.

An adjective may:

(1) Describe a noun: as, brilliant scientist, cold coffee, fast car.

(2) Indicate which member or members of a group are denoted by the noun: as, this pen, some people, any woman, three books, second week.

Any word that describes or modifies a noun in this way is an adjective. Thus, we normally think of weekend as a noun, but in the sentence, “I enjoy weekend sports,” the word is an adjective because it modifies the noun sports. Seen in this way, the possessive case of a noun can be classified as an adjective: as, William’s desk, Harry’s hat, the lady’s dress.

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Indefinite Pronouns

The Indefinite Pronouns take their name from the fact that they do not refer to definite persons or things.

Compare “Somebody will have to pick that up” (indefinite) with “He will pick that up” (definite).

The indefinite pronouns include a large number of words indicating various degrees of indefiniteness. The more common ones follow:

some, someone, somebody, something,

any, anyone, anybody, anything

everyone, everybody, everything

one, none, nobody, nothing

other, another, either, neither, all, many

few, each, both

Case and Number. The nominative and objective case forms of indefinite pronouns are the same, but some indefinite pronouns have a distinct possessive case form: as, one’s, other’s, another’s, and the compound forms of one and body (anyone’s, everybody’s).

One and other also have plural forms: ones and others: as, “These are the ones I need.” “The others aren’t worth discussing.”

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Demonstrative Pronouns

The Demonstrative Pronouns are this and that, with their plurals these and those.

They are used to point out persons or things with definiteness or special emphasis. (The word “demonstrative” derives from the same root as “demonstrate,” meaning “to point out.”)

Case. The demonstrative pronouns have the same form for the nominative and objective cases and have no possessive form.

Antecedent. The antecedent of the demonstrative pronoun may be:

(1) A single noun: as, “I recently reread The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and I believe that is the best of Mark Twain’s novels.”

(2) Two or more nouns referred to by a plural demonstrative pronoun: as, “I have spent many years reading Keats and Wordsworth. These are the most rewarding of the Romantic poets.”

(3) A whole statement: as, “The Los Angeles Philharmonic charges a lot of money for tickets, and that keeps many people from attending their concerts.” (In order to avoid ambiguity, this last type of reference is often avoided in formal writing.)

Often the demonstrative pronoun has no expressed antecedent. This is especially true in conversation, when persons or things referred to can be indicated with a gesture or a glance. A person seeing something of note has only to say, “Look at that!” or picking up a DVD, could say, “Have you seen this yet?”

This and these refer to objects comparatively near; that and those, to things comparatively farther away: as, “I like this as well as that.” “I’ll stick with these instead of those.”

This and that make reference to singular antecedents; these and those, to plural antecedents.

Distinction Between Relative and Demonstrative Pronouns. That can be either a relative or a demonstrative pronoun. Compare the following sentences:

He opened the package that he ordered (relative).

He wanted to do that, time permitting (demonstrative).

The demonstrative that points out something as definitely as if one were pointing a finger at it. The relative that has none of this definite force. As a rule, the relative that is placed immediately after its antecedent and introduces a separate clause which modifies the antecedent. The demonstrative that can be at a considerable distance from its antecedent, even by a few sentences, and it does not introduce a separate clause.

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Interrogative Pronouns

The Interrogative Pronouns are used in asking questions. They are who, which, what, and how.

Antecedents. An interrogative pronoun does not have an antecedent expressed in the sentence.

Case. Who has the following case forms.

Nominativewho
Possessivewhose
Objectivewhom

Which and what retain the same form for both the nominative and objective cases and have no possessive form.

Like other pronouns, the case of an interrogative pronoun is determined by its use in the sentence—subject of a verb, object of a verb, etc.

Who wants coffee? (Nominative case—subject of the verb).

Who was Charles Bukowski? (Nominative case—predicate pronoun).

Whose is that? (Possessive case—denoting possession).

Whom will you hire? (Objective case—object of the verb).

Whom did you collect money for? (Objective case—object of the preposition).

Position in the Sentence. As a general rule, the interrogative pronoun is placed at the beginning of the sentence even when it is a predicate pronoun or the object of the verb. When used as an object of a preposition, in formal English, the preposition usually precedes it: as, “From whom did you learn that?” (In informal English, especially in conversation and social media, the preposition is often placed at the end of the sentence.)

Interrogative Pronouns in Indirect Questions. Interrogative pronouns are used in both direct and indirect questions: “Tell me whom you met.” “I asked her what she baked.” In indirect questions the syntax of a direct question is expressed in a way somewhat different from that previously used by the speaker. Indirect questions most often follow verbs like ask, tell, wonder, etc. Thus, “Tell me whom you met” is the indirect form of the direct question, “Whom did you meet?” The question mark is omitted after an indirect question.

Distinction Between Interrogative and Relative Pronouns. Who, which, and what may be either interrogative or relative pronouns. In direct questions the interrogative pronoun is easy to spot. In indirect questions, the classification of who and which also offers little difficulty because as relatives these pronouns will have antecedents; as interrogatives they will not.

Pour the wine which you selected (relative).

Tell me which you selected (interrogative).

What used as a relative or interrogative pronoun does not have an antecedent. Its classification is determined by whether or not a question is implied.

We know what he did (relative).

She asked me what he said (interrogative).

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