Personal Pronouns – Subject

Today, I am discussing the use of personal pronouns in English, as they relate to the subject of the verb. In future videos, I will talk about the other types of personal pronouns including those relating to the object, and also possessives.

I would like to welcome captioner and  transcriptionist Viviane Blais to WilderWords. Viviane is a genius with subtitles and captions for film and video, and she has graciously agreed to add subtitles to my videos to make it easier for beginners to follow.

Tu in English

In the video, I mention that there used to be an English equivalent to the French tu. That word was ‘thou’. In fact, if I can jump ahead a video or two, the whole table of personal pronouns was originally quite different.

  Subject            Object           Possessive
1st Person (singular)              I                      Me              My (or Mine)
1st Person (plural)               We                     Us               Our (or Ours)

2nd Person (singular)        Thou                Thee             Thy (or Thine)
2nd Person (plural)               Ye                   You               Your (or Yours)

3rd Person (singular)     He/She/It     Him/Her/It     His/Hers/Its
3rd Person (plural)             They                Them            Their (or Theirs)

So we can see that, up until the mid-17th Century (later in some regions of England and Scotland) the entire catalogue of second person pronouns is quite different. Even ‘you’ in the plural was different. Many bibles and theological texts were written in this more intimate usage to reflect the personal relationship that worshipers were supposed to have with the Deity.

3 Comments

September 27, 2013 · 3:37 PM

3 responses to “Personal Pronouns – Subject

  1. Interesting stuff, Myke. Just wondering, do you have any idea how “Ye” was eventually replaced by “you” as a subject pronoun?

    • Well, as I wrote, early Modern English distinguished between the plural you and the singular thou.

      During the Romance era, a linguistic feature called the T-V distinction (I believe this refers to Tu-Vous was imported into England. This distinction held that the plural forms were respectful and deferential; they were used to address strangers and social superiors. This distinction ultimately led to the familiar thou becoming obsolete in standard English, as people began to feel that thou was common, rude, or condescending. This did not happen in French.

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