Welcome to EUROCENTRES blog

What’s the Difference Between Relative, Personal and Possessive Pronouns?

Image representing two people learning about what the boss says in English and what they really mean

You probably already know that pronouns are words that you can use to refer to a noun instead of it, but did you know that there are different groups of pronouns?

Each type is used in a different way – so let’s find out about what they are, and how you can use them!

Personal pronouns

This one might be the simplest. Personal pronouns are used to refer to a particular person or thing. You might use one to refer to yourself or other specific people if you know who you are talking about, or you might use one to refer to a particular object.

You can also use personal pronouns in the plural form. Let’s look at some examples – the personal pronoun is highlighted in each one:

“My name is John. I am an engineer.”

“How do you like to take your coffee?”

“She is a very good athlete!”

“The TV is broken – it won’t switch on.”

“They are coming to stay with us next week.”

There are also two groups of personal pronouns – subject pronouns and object pronouns. Which one you use depends on whether it is the subject or object in the sentence.

Subject pronouns include: “I”, “he”, “she”, “we” and “they”. Object pronouns include: “me”, “him”, “her”, “us” and “them”. Some pronouns, including “you” and “it” stay the same.

Relative pronouns

These are used to help relate two different clauses to another. It might be to introduce something, make a connection, or ask and answer a question.

Relative pronouns include: “who”, “whom”, “whose”, “which” and “that”. One point to note is that “whom” is often only used in a formal sense – most of the time people will use “who” in a spoken or informal context.

Let’s look at them in action!

“This is the girl who I was talking to last night.”

“To whom is your question addressed?”

“Whose books are these?”

“I went to the local university, which has the biggest library here.”

“The bike that I use is getting old now.”

As you can see, you can also use relative pronouns to ask a question if you are looking to find out the relationship of something.

Possessive pronouns

As you might guess from the name, this group of pronouns is all about showing who possesses something, or what belongs to someone!

These pronouns can depend on whether it is something singular or plural, as well as the gender of the possessor.

You can use them to talk about people possessing things, but you can also use them to refer to animals, or even objects in some cases! Let’s look at some examples:

“This book is mine but those ones on the shelf are yours.”

“She ate his portion of the cake.”

“He said the job was hers.”

“The coats on the hook are ours – we left them there when we came in.”

“You told me your cats have a special room – is this one theirs?”

Your turn

Each group is slightly different and has a unique role in the English language – so take your time to practice each one and make sure you can tell the difference!