Archaic Pronouns

Although we don't use 'archaic' or old pronouns today, but if you're a fan of works of Shakespeare, or other classic works you need to learn about them.

"Archaic Pronouns" in English Grammar

What Are Archaic Pronouns?

When reading the Bible, works of Shakespeare, or other classical works, we come across a set of different pronouns, as well as verbs, and names which are used throughout the texts and sound new to us, but are actually old. Such old expressions are called 'archaic'. Here, we will specifically explore archaic pronouns.

Pronouns Change Over Time

Like all other words, personal pronouns - particularly second-person pronouns - have undergone changes over time. In addition to the standard, non-standard, and informal personal pronouns in English, there are also archaic pronouns that were used in the past but have mostly been replaced with the standard pronouns in modern usage.

Archaic Pronouns

The archaic personal pronouns of English are:

  • thou (you - singular)
  • thee (you - singular)
  • ye (you - plural)
  • thy (your)
  • thine (yours - before vowel)
  • thyself (yourself - singular)

Thou

'Thou' is an archaic pronoun that means 'you.' It is used when talking to one person who is the subject of the verb.

Thou shalt not kill.

Thee

'Thee' is an archaic pronoun that also means 'you' and is used when talking to only one person, but it is different from 'thou' in that it is used when the person is the object of the verb. Take a look at the examples:

We beseech thee, O Lord.

With this ring, I thee wed.

Using the Archaic Pronouns 'Thee' in a Sentence

Ye

'Ye' is an archaic pronoun that means 'you' and is used when talking to more than one person. 'Ye' is used as the subject of the sentence. For example:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

O Come, All Ye Faithful

Thy

'Thy' is a word that means 'your' and is used when talking to only one person. 'Thy' is the possessive determiner form of 'you.'

Honor thy father and thy mother.

When the word that follows 'thy' starts with a vowel or the letter 'h,' 'thine' is used instead of 'thy.'

Thine eyes I love.

Thine

'Thine' is a word that means 'yours' (possessive form of you) and is used when talking to only one person.

His spirit will take courage from thine.

Thyself

'Thyself' is ‌an archaic pronoun meaning 'yourself'. It is a reflexive pronoun and is used when talking to only one person.

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

History: Formal or Informal (The Omnipresent You)

In Old English, like most other European languages, there were two different words for the second-person singular and plural; 'thou' as the singular and 'ye' as the plural form, i.e. 'thou' addressed one person, and 'ye' more than one.
The singular pronouns 'thou' and 'thee' indicated 'familiarity or intimacy.' Therefore, they were used among close friends and family. But when addressing a stranger or someone outside the friend circle, using 'thou' or 'thee' was considered impolite and condescending.
Gradually, 'thou' and 'thee' were replaced by 'ye' and 'you' as the polite form of address for an equal or a superior person.
Eventually, 'you' drove out 'thou,' 'thee,' and 'ye' and became the only second-person pronoun, used for singular and plural, as well as formal and informal. In some parts of England, however, people still use these archaic pronouns in everyday talk.

Review

Subject Object Reflexive Possessive Pronoun Possessive Determiner
Singular Standard you you yourself yours your
Singular Archaic informal thou thee thyself thine thy/thine (before vowel)
Plural Standard you you yourselves yours your
Plural Archaic ye you yourselves yours your

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