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Pronouns

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Form of personal, reflexive pronouns and possessives

                  personal pronouns:                      possessives:                       reflexive pronouns:

                    subject       object            adjectives      pronouns

                        I                 me                   my                  mine                            myself    

                       You             you                 your                yours                           yourself

Singular         He              him                 his                     his                              himself

                        She             her                 her                     hers                            herself

                        It                 it                    its                       -                                itself

                       One             one                 one’s                  -                                oneself

                       We               us                   our                   ours                            ourselves

   Plural         You            you                 your                 yours                           yourselves

                       They           them               their                 theirs                           themselves

A pronoun is a word that can be used in place of noun as the word itself tells us: pro-noun. But still, this traditional definition of pronoun cannot be applied to the old kinds of pronouns. We do not normally put a noun after the pronoun except in some special combinations such as you students, she-bear, etc. We use pronouns like she, he, it and they when we already know who or what is referred to. This saves us from having to repeat the name or the noun whatever we need to refer to it:

       John arrives late last night. He had a tiring journey.

        I wrote to Kate and told her what had happened.

We have to know how the difference between determiners and pronouns. Determiners are always followed by a noun. Words such as some and this followed by a noun function as determiners. When they stand on their own, they function as pronouns.

   I want some milk. (some + noun (milk) functions as determiner)

   I want some.           (some on its own functions as pronoun)

   I want this book.    (this is determiner)

   I want this.              (this is pronoun)

1.     Personal pronouns

Subject :      I       you       he        she       it      one       we       you      they

Object:       me     you       him    her        it      one        us       you       them

Though these words are called personal pronouns, they do not refer only to people. For example: Your breakfast is ready. It is on the table.

We call them personal pronouns because they refer to grammatical person (1st, 2nd and 3rd) and can be grouped like this:

1st person: I, we

2nd person: you, you

3rd person: he, she, it, one, day

Personal pronouns refer to:

1.     the speaker, called the first person

Singular- I

Plural: we (includes the speakers and one or more others)

2.     the person spoken to, called the second person- you (singular and plural)

3.     the person or thing being spoken of, called the third person

Singular- he (for males), she (for females), it (for things, also for live beings whose sex is unknown or unimportant to the speaker)

Plural- they (for all live beings and for all things)

The impersonal pronoun one is used to generalize for all persons: One should always try to be kind to others.

Most European languages have two forms of you, an informal one for family, close friends, children etc and formal one for strangers, elder people, superiors etc. In English, we do not make this distinction: the one word, you, is used for everybody. There are not also different singular and plural forms of you (except for reflexive pronouns yourself, yourselves.)

Note that the singular pronoun he, she and it have the same plural form they and the singular object pronouns him, her and it have the same plural form them.

The choice of pronouns depends on the noun that is being replaced. Pronouns (except for you) agree with the nouns they replace in number (singular or plural), gender (masculine, feminine and neuter) and person (1st, 2nd and 3 rd person.)

John is here. He (replacing John) can’t stay long. –singular, masculine, 3rd person

The windows are dirty. I have to wash them .( replacing windows) – plural neuter, 3rd person

If you see Joanna please give her (replacing Joanna) this message. –singular, feminine, 3rd person

We do not normally use a noun and pronoun together:

My friend invited me to dinner . (Not *My friend, he invited me to dinner.)

I parked my car outside . (Not *My car, I parked it outside.)

1.1  Subject pronouns

Subject pronouns nearly always come before a verb in statements. They are used when the person or thing referred to can be identified by both speaker and hearer:

John didn’t find us in so he left a message . (Here the pronoun he functions as subject of the sentence He left a message, but we know who it refers to from the 1 st part of the sentence)

In English, the subject of a sentence must be expressed. If it is not directly expressed, its presence then it is strongly implied. This can be contrasted with some other European languages where the use of subject may be optional.

The first person singular I

The speaker or writer uses I when referring to himself or herself. This is the only personal pronoun which is always spelt with a capital letter.

Note that I is written in capital letter whether it is at the beginning of a sentence or not:

  I think, therefore I am. John told me I needn’t wait.

In polite usage it is usual to avoid mentioning yourself first:

Jane and I have already eaten . (rather than I and Jane)

Who is going to the party? – Alina, Mary, Kate and I .

The second person singular and plural: you

We use this when we address another person, or two or more people:

Are you ready, Jill? Or: Are you (both/all) ready?

It is also used for general statements: You can see a beautiful landscape from that point.

The third person singular masculine: he

He stands for a male person who has already been mentioned:

Don’t expect David to accept your invitation. He’s far too busy.

He is used in proverbial expression to mean anyone:

He who hesitates is lost.

The third person singular feminine: she

She stands for a female person who has already been mentioned:

Ask Jennifer is she will be at home in time for dinner.

The third person neuter: it

It can refer to a thing, a quality, an event, an activity, a place etc.

The vase is valuable. It’s more than 200 years old.

Loyalty must be earned. It can’t be bought.

I love swimming. It keeps me fit.

Last night I ran out of petrol. It really taught me a lesson.

You should visit London. It is beautiful.

We use it to identify people:

There’s a knock on the door. Who is it? –It’s the postman .

Who’s that? –It’s our new next-door neighbour, Mrs. Smith.

But note this request for information: (not identification)

Who’s Mrs. Smith? –She’s our new next-door neighbour.

We also use it when we don’t know the sex of the baby or child:

It’ s a lovely baby. Is it girl or a boy?

We refer to an animal as it when the sex is not known or not worth identifying:

I’m fed up with that dog of yours. It never stops barking.

The first person plural: we (two or more people)

We can include the listener or not:

Let’s go, shall we ? (including the listener)

We ’re staying here . What about you? (not including the listener)

We is often used to mean anyone/everyone e.g. in newspapers:

We should applaud the government’s efforts to create more jobs.

We is used in the same way in general statements:

We all fear the unknown.

The third personal plural: they (two or more people, things, etc.)

They can stand for persons, animals or things already mentioned:

John and Susan phoned.     They are coming round this evening.

Look at those cows!            They never stop eating.

Our curtains look dirty.      They need a good wash.

They can be used in general statements to mean people:

They say (or People say) oil prices will be going up soon.

They is also commonly used to refer to “the authorities”:

They ’re putting oil prices again soon.

They is also used to mean someone else, not me:

If you ask at Reception, they will tell you where it is.

In everyday speech we usually omit subjects pronouns:

Found this in the garden. Know who it belongs to?

(I found this in the garden. Do you know who it belongs to?)

1.2  Object pronouns

Object pronouns replace nouns in object positions. They can be:

-direct objects: Have you met Mary? I’ve never met her.

-indirect objects : If you see Jim, give him my regards.

- object of preposition (object which follows the preposition): I really feel sorry for them.

In polite usage it is usual to avoid mentioning yourself first (same as subject pronoun)

They saw John and me at the party . (rather than me and John)

Us is often used very normally in place of me particularly after the imperatives of verbs like give and pass:

Give us a hand with this trunk, will you?

2.     Possessive adjectives/ possessive pronouns

Adjectives :   my         your     his     her     its  (one’s)     our     your      their

Pronouns:      mine     yours    his     hers     -       -           ours    yours    theirs

Possessive adjectives and pronouns show possession, for example that someone or something belongs to somebody. They answer the question Whose?

The possessive adjectives listed above are determiners and must always be used in front of a noun, while pronouns can stand on their own:

This is my pen . ( possessive adjective- determiner- used with noun pen)

This pen is mine. Or This is mine. (if you’re showing on pen)

His refers to possession by a male: John’s daughter (his daughter)

Her refers to possession by a female: Jane’s son (her son)

It refer to possession by an animal or thing: the cat’s milk (its milk), the page of this book (its page)

My, your and their refer to possession by males or females:

My house is there.” Sally said/ John said.

Here is your tea, Sally/ John.

The boys’ coats are here and their caps are there.

The girls’ coats are there and their caps are there.

Their can also refer to possession by animals or things as in:

Dogs should have their own kennels outside the house.

Cars with their engines at the back are very noisy.

The possessive pronoun mine, yours etc are never used in front of nouns and are always stressed in speech. They refer equally to person and things, singular or plural. Its is never used as a pronoun.

These are my children. These children are mine.

These are my things. These things are mine.

I can’t find my pen. Can you lend me yours?

Possessive pronouns can come at the beginning of a sentence:

This is my cup. Yours is in the cupboard.

My father is a lawyer. –Mine is a doctor.

Noun + of it can sometimes be used in place of its + noun

How much is that book? I’ve forgotten the price of it/ its price.

3.     Reflexive pronouns

Singular:     myself           yourself           himself, herself, itself, oneself   

Plural:       ourselves        yourselves                   themselves

There are only a few verbs in English which must always be followed by a reflexive pronoun: absent, avail, pride:

              The soldier absented himself without leave for three weeks .

Other verbs are very commonly followed by reflexives: amuse, blame, cut, dry, enjoy, hurt, introduce:

        I cut myself shaving this morning.

        We really enjoyed ourselves this morning.

Of course these verbs can be followed by ordinary objects:

     I’ve cut my lip. We enjoyed the holiday.

The important thing to remember is that verbs of this kind are never followed by object pronouns (me, him, her etc.) when the subject and object refer to the same person:

    I’ve cut myself.

Reflexive pronouns can be used after many ordinary verbs if we wish to point back to the subject:

    I got such a shock when I saw myself in the mirror.

They also can be used as indirect object:

   The boss gave himself a rise.

There are also a number of conversation expressions with reflexive pronouns:

I can’t help myself. Help yourself! Make yourself at home! Don’t upset yourself.

Reflexive pronouns can be used freely after nouns and pronouns for emphasis to mean that person/thing and only that person/thing did something:

    You yourself heard the explosion.

    The engine itself is all right, but the lights are badly damaged.

    I myself saw him going there.

4.     Demonstrative adjectives and pronouns

Singular:     this            boy, girl, tree, book, money

Plural:        these        boys, girls, trees, books, -

This and these refer to something that is close to us, their reference matches here.

Singular:    that      boy, girl, tree, book, money

Plural:      those     boys, girls, trees, books, -

That and those refer to something that is distant and their reference matches there.

“Nearness” may be physical. This and these may refer to something you are actually holding

or that is close to you, or that you consider to be close to you, or to something that is present

in a situation. We can association this and these with here.

The picture I am referring to is this one here.

The photographs I meant are these here.

Distance may be physical. That and those can refer to something that is not close to you, or that you do not consider to be close to you. We can associate that and those with there.

The picture I am referring to is that one over there.

The photographs I meant are those there.

Demonstratives can be adjectives, that means they can be determiners and go before the noun or one/ones or they can be pronouns and used in a place of noun.

Adjective + noun : I don’ like this coat.

Adjective + one:    I don’t like this one.

Pronoun:                I don’t like this.

Demonstratives used as pronouns normally refer to things not people:

   I found this wallet. I found this.

    I know this girl. I know her. (this cannot stand on its own here)

Demonstrative pronouns after What? refer to things:

   What’s this/ that? What are these/ those?

This and that as pronouns after Who? refer to people:

Who is this/ that?

These and those referring to people are followed by a noun.

  Compare What are these/ those? (things) with

                 Who are these/ those people/ men/women/ children?

5.     Indefinite pronouns

   some-                          any-                           no-                           every-

someone                      anyone                       no one                     everyone

somebody                   anybody                     nobody                    everybody

something                   anything                    nothing                    everything

these pronouns are called indefinite because we do not always know who or what they are referring to. These pronouns followed the rules given for some, any and no.

Some- pronouns are used in:

-the affirmative :    I met someone you know last night .

- questions expecting “yes ”:  Was there something you wanted?

-offers and requests :   Would you like something to drink?

Any- pronouns are used:

-in negative statements:     There isn’t anyone who can help you.

-in questions when we are doubtful about the answerIs there anyone here who’s doctor?

-with hardly etc:     I’ve had hardly anything to eat.

No- pronouns are used when the verb is affirmative:

   There is no one here at the moment.

6.     Interrogative pronouns

Interrogative pronouns introduce direct or indirect question:

     Direct question         Who answered the phone?

     Indirect question     He asked who had answered the phone?

There are four interrogative pronouns: who (refers to person) (whom for object form)

                                                               what (for things)

                                                               which (for a choice involving either persons or things)

                                                               whose

(refers to person and indicate possession)