The use of pronouns often involves anaphora, where the meaning of the pronoun is dependent on another referential element. This applies particularly to the (third-person) personal pronouns. The referent of the pronoun is often the same as that of a preceding (or sometimes following) noun phrase, called the antecedent of the pronoun. For example, in the sentence That poor man looks as if he needs a new coat, the antecedent of the pronoun he is the noun phrase that poor man. (Pronouns used without antecedents are sometimes called unprecursed pronouns.) Another type of antecedent is that found with relative pronouns, as in the woman who looked at you, where the woman is the antecedent of the relative pronoun who.
We can identify 8 different sub-classes of pronoun:
Personal pronouns are the central class of pronouns and denote an entity of a specific grammatical person: first person (as in the case of I, me, we, etc.), second person (as in the case of you), or third person (he, she, they, etc.)
Subject pronouns are used when the person or thing is the subject of the sentence or clause. English example: I like to eat chips, but she does not.
Second person formal and informal pronouns (T-V distinction). For example, vous and tu in French. There is no distinction in modern English though Elizabethan English marked the distinction with "thou" (singular informal) and "you" (plural or singular formal).
Intensive pronouns, also known as emphatic pronouns, re-emphasize a noun or pronoun that has already been mentioned. English uses the same forms as the reflexive pronouns; for example: I did it myself (contrast reflexive use, I did it to myself).
Object pronouns are used when the person or thing is the object of the sentence or clause. English example: John likes me but not her.
In a strict sense, the possessive pronouns are only those that act syntactically as nouns. English example: Those clothes are mine.
Often, though, the term "possessive pronoun" is also applied to the so-called possessive determiners (or possessive adjectives). For example, in English: I lost my wallet. They are not strictly speaking pronouns because they do not substitute for a noun or noun phrase, and as such, some grammarians classify these terms in a separate lexical category called determiners (they have a syntactic role close to that of adjectives, always qualifying a noun).
Demonstrative pronouns distinguish the particular objects or people that are referred to from other possible candidates. English example: I'll take these.
Indefinite pronouns refer to general categories of people or things. English example: Anyone can do that.
Distributive pronouns are used to refer to members of a group separately rather than collectively. English example: To each his own.
Negative pronouns indicate the non-existence of people or things. English example: Nobody thinks that.
Relative pronouns refer back to people or things previously mentioned. English example: People who smoke should quit now.
Indefinite relative pronouns have some of the properties of both relative pronouns and indefinite pronouns. They have a sense of "referring back", but the person or thing to which they refer has not previously been explicitly named. English example: I know what I like.
In many languages (e.g., Czech, English, French, Interlingua, and Russian), the sets of relative and interrogative pronouns are nearly identical. Compare English: Who is that? (interrogative) to I know who that is.
Pronouns and determiners
Pronouns and determiners are closely related, and some linguists think pronouns are actually determiners without a noun or a noun phrase. The following chart shows their relationships in English.
The views of different schools
Pronouns have been classified as one of the parts of speech since at least the 2nd century BC when they were included in the Greek treatise Art of Grammar. Objections to this approach have appeared among grammatical theories in the 20th century. Their grammatical heterogeneity, many-sided pronouns were underlined, which were classified as follows:[clarification needed]
^Bhat, D.N.S. 2004. Pronouns. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
^ abPostal, Paul (1966). "On So-Called "Pronouns" in English". In Dinneen, Francis P. Report of the Seventeenth Annual Round Table Meeting on Linguistics and Language Studies (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press): 177–206