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.
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.
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 is an archaic pronoun meaning ‘you’. It's used when talking to only one person who is the subject of the verb.
You shall not kill.
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 'you', O Lord.
with this ring, I you wed.
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 you rosebuds while you may.
O Come, All You Faithful.
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 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 is a word meaning ‘yours’ (possessive form of you) and it's used when talking to only one person.
His sprit will take courage from yours.
Thyself is an archaic pronoun meaning ‘yourself’ and it's used when talking to only one person.
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)|