Archaic Pronouns in English Grammar

Archaic Pronouns in English Grammar

Although we don't use 'archaic' or old pronouns today, but if you're a fan of Shakespearean or historical older texts, you need to learn about them.

Archaic Pronouns in English Grammar

Archaic Pronouns

When reading the Bible, Shakespearean, or other traditional works, we face an almost completely different language. It’s new to us, but it’s actually old! A set of different pronouns, verbs, and names is used throughout the texts which we haven’t heard or written before. In this article, we’ll learn about them.

Pronouns Change Over Time

Like every other word, personal pronouns, mainly the second person, have gone through changes over time. Along with the standard, non-standard, and informal personal pronouns in English, there are also archaic pronouns which were used in the old times and are now mostly replaced with the standard pronouns.

Archaic Pronouns

The archaic personal pronouns are as follows:

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

Thou

Thou is an archaic pronoun meaning ‘you’. It's used when talking to only one person who is the subject of the verb.

Thou shalt not kill .

You shall not kill.

Thee

Thee is an archaic pronoun meaning ‘you’. It's used when talking to only one person who is the object of the verb.

We beseech thee , O Lord .

We beseech 'you', O Lord.

With this ring , I thee wed .

with this ring, I you wed.

Ye

Ye is an archaic pronoun meaning ‘you’ and is used when talking to more than one person. Ye can be used as the subject of the sentence.

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may .

Gather you rosebuds while you may.

O Come , All Ye Faithful

O Come, All You Faithful.

Thy

Thy is a word meaning ‘your’ and it's used when talking to only one person. 'Thy' is a possessive determiner form of 'you'.

Honor thy father and thy mother .

Honor your father and your mother.

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

Thine eyes I love .

Thine

Thine is a word meaning ‘yours’ (possessive form of you) and it's used when talking to only one person.

His spirit will take courage from thine .

His sprit will take courage from yours.

Thyself

Thyself is ‌an archaic pronoun meaning ‘yourself’ and it's used when talking to only one person.

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself .

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

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. When addressing a stranger or someone outside the friend circle, using ‘thou’ or ‘thee’ was considered impolite and condescending. But gradually, ‘thou’ and ‘thee’ were replaced by ‘ye’ and ‘you’ as the polite form of address for an equal or a superior person. And eventually, 'you' drove out ‘thou’, ‘thee’, and ‘ye’ to become the only second-person pronoun, for both singular, plural and formal. Finally, in some parts of England, however, people still use these archaic pronouns in everyday talk.

Subject Object Reflexive Possessive Pronoun Possessive Determiner
Singular Standard (archaic plural and later formal) 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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