Pro-forms are not really part of grammar, and this
topic could be discussed under ellipsis or substitution. The purpose of
this section is draw attention to the use of words as replacements for
other words and expressions.
A pro-form is a word that replaces a
previously mentioned word or expression (or idea) and takes its
meaning. Pro-forms have a similar function to pronouns (which are
pro-forms). Strictly speaking, however, a pronoun is a word that stands
for a noun. Conventially, pronouns are considered to stand for groups
of words including sentences and even for ideas, inferred from the
text. It is sometimes useful, however, to be aware that some words
stand for other parts of speech. For instance:
Bob ran in the marathon.
Betty did too.
In the sentence above, did
isn't a pronoun (it replaces a verb), although it has the substituting
quality of pronouns. We can think of did as a pro-verb.
The word too
is also a pro-form replacing in
the marathon, and adding the normal adverb too, meaning in addition to the previously
A pro-noun is a word that substitutes for a noun. All pro-nouns are
pronouns, but some pronouns are not pro-nouns. For instance:
My neighbour'cat was
unwell. This made me feel sad.
The pronoun this
refers to the previous sentence, and is a pro-sentence, not a pro-noun.
The most common pro-verb is do.
They speak too groups. I
Where do replaces speak.
Jack could lift heavy
weights. So could Mary.
We can consider could
in the second sentence to mean could
lift. In the second sentence could is a
pro-verb. However, in the meaning,
could lift, could
is a normal verb: it does not stand for another word. A word acting as
a pro-form is sometimes repeated in the meaning in its normal form. The
word so is
also a pro-form replacing heavy
We could have written the sentence, using too instead of so, like this:
Jack could lift heavy
weights. Mary could too.
is similarly a pro-veb meaning could
lift. The word too
is also a pro-form meaning lift
heavy weights (too), where the repeated word too is an adverb of manner.
He is flying to America. I
The word may is a pro-verb in the above sentence.
Her dress is green. Mine
word too is a pro-adjective, standing for the adjective green. Again we
could have written the sentence using so instead of too:
Her dress is green. So is
Where so is a pro-adjective meaning green.
He exercised regularly. I
The word too stands for regularly, so it is a pro-adverb. (did stands
for exercised, and is a pro-verb).
Jo did the work well. Bill
did it similarly.
The word similarly
stands for well, and is a pro-adverb.
Pro-forms can replace other expressions, such as sentences:
You should not walk on the grass. Fido did not heed this.
The word, this, stands for 'the rule about not walking on the grass'.
They can refer to paragraphs, etc:
had been let out of jail. She was violent and would attack without a
thought. She carried a pistol and a knife, and would not hesitate to
use them. She was a psychopath.
I did not know this when I told her to leave for disobeying the rules.
The word 'this' stands for the preceding paragraph.