HOME
TheInfoList



The English personal pronouns are a subset of
English
English
pronouns
pronouns
taking various forms according to
number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be represented in language with number words. More un ...
,
person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousness, and being a part of a culturally established form of social relations such as kinship, ownersh ...
, case and natural gender.
Modern English Modern English (sometimes New English or NE (ME) as opposed to Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th centur ...
has very little
inflection In linguistic morphology, inflection (or inflexion) is a process of word formation, in which a word is modified to express different grammatical categories A grammatical category or grammatical feature is a property of items within the gramm ...
of
noun A noun (from Latin ''nōmen'', literally ''name'') is a word that functions as the name of a specific object or set of objects, such as living creatures, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas.Example nouns for: * Organism, Li ...
s or
adjective In linguistics, an adjective (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is a word that grammatical modifier, modifies a noun or noun phrase or describes its referent. Its Semantics, semantic role is to change information given by the noun. ...
s, to the point where some authors describe it as an analytic language, but the Modern English system of personal
pronoun
pronoun
s has preserved some of the inflectional complexity of
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventu ...
and
Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th century. English language underwent distinct variations and developments following the O ...
.


Forms

Unlike nouns, which are not inflected for case except for possession (''woman/woman's''), English personal pronouns have a number of forms, which are named according to their typical grammatical role in a sentence: * objective (accusative) case (''me'', ''us'', etc.), used as the object of a verb, complement of a preposition, and the subject of a verb in some constructions (see below). The same forms are also used as disjunctive pronouns. * Subject pronoun, subjective (nominative) case (''I'', ''we'', etc.), used as the Subject (grammar), subject of a verb (see also below). * Reflexive pronoun, reflexive form (''myself'', ''ourselves'', etc.). This typically refers back to a noun or pronoun (its antecedent) within the same clause (for example, ''She cut herself''). This form is also sometimes used optionally in a non-reflexive function, as a substitute for a non-reflexive pronoun (for example, ''For someone like myself, . . .'', ''This article was written by Professor Smith and myself''), though some style guides recommend avoiding such use. The same reflexive forms also are used as intensive pronouns (for example, ''She made the dress herself''). Possessive pronouns (''mine'', ''ours'', etc.) replace the entity that was referred to previously (as in ''I prefer mine'') or serve as predicate adjectives (as in ''this book is mine''). For details see English possessive. As they are pronouns they cannot precede any noun.


Basic

The basic personal pronouns of modern English are shown in the table below. Other English pronouns which have distinct forms of the above types are the indefinite pronoun ''one (pronoun), one'', which has the reflexive ''oneself'' (the possessive form is written ''one's'', like a regular English possessive); and the interrogative and relative pronoun ''who (pronoun), who'', which has the objective form ''whom'' (now confined mostly to formal English) and the possessive ''whose'' (which in its relative use can also serve as the possessive for ''which''). Note that singular they is morphosyntactically plural: it is used with a plural verb form, as in "they laugh" or "they are". See the #Singular they, singular they section for more information.


Archaic and non-standard

Apart from the standard forms given above, English also has a number of non-standard, informal and archaic (linguistics), archaic forms of personal pronouns. * An archaic set of second-person singular pronouns is ''thou, thee, thy, thine, thyself''. In Anglo-Saxon times, these were strictly second person singular. After the Norman Conquest in 1066, they began to be used as a T–V distinction, familiar form, like French ''tu'' and German ''du''. They passed out of general use between 1600 and 1800, although they (or variants of them) survive in some English and Scottish dialects and in some Christianity, Christian religious communities, and in many idioms. For details see ''thou''. * In archaic language, ''mine'' and ''thine'' may be used in place of ''my'' and ''thy'' when followed by a vowel sound. * For the use of ''me'' instead of ''I'', see I (pronoun)#Alternative use of nominative and accusative * An archaic form of plural ''you'' as a subject pronoun is ''ye''. Some dialects now use ''ye'' in place of ''you'', or as an apocope, apocopated or clitic form of ''you''. See ye (pronoun), ''ye'' (pronoun). * A non-standard variant of ''my'' (particularly in British dialects) is ''me''. (This may have its origins in the fact that in
Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th century. English language underwent distinct variations and developments following the O ...
''my'' before a consonant was pronounced [mi:], like modern English ''me'', (while ''me'' was [me:], similar to modern ''may'') and this was shortened to [mi] or [mɪ], as the pronouns ''he'' and ''we'' are nowadays; [hi wɒz] ''he was''; versus [ɪt wɒz hi:] ''it was he''. As this vowel was short, it was not subject to the Great Vowel Shift, and so emerged in modern English unchanged.) * Informal second-person plural forms (particularly in American dialects) include ''you all'', ''y'all'', ''youse''. Other variants include: ''yous'', ''you/youse guys'', ''you/youse gals'', ''you-uns'', ''yis'', ''yinz''. Possessives may include ''you(r) guys's'', ''you(r) gals's'', ''yous's'', ''y'all's'' (or ''y'alls''). Reflexives may be formed by adding ''selves'' after any of the possessive forms. See ''y'all'', ''yinz'', ''yous''. ''Yous'' is common in Scotland, particularly in the Central Belt area (though in some parts of the country and in parts of Ireland, ''ye'' is used for the plural ''you''). * In informal speech ''them'' is often replaced by em'', believed to be a survival of the late Old English form ''heom'', which appears as ''hem'' in Chaucer, losing its aspirated consonant, aspiration due to being used as an unstressed form. (The forms ''they'', ''them'' etc. are of Scandinavian origin.) * Non-standard reflexive forms ''ourself'' and ''themself'' are sometimes used in contexts where ''we'' and ''they'' are used with singular meaning (see ''we'' and Singular they, singular ''they''). * Non-standard reflexive forms ''hisself'' and ''theirselves/theirself'' are sometimes used (though would be considered incorrect in standard English). * In some parts of England, the pronoun "hoo" is used as a third person singular pronoun. The exact usage varies by location, as it can refer to a male creature, female creature, or be used as a genderless pronoun depending on where in England it is used.


Complete table

A more complete table, including the standard forms and some of the above forms, is given below. Nonstandard, informal and archaic forms are in ''italics''. *In religious usage, the pronouns He/She/You, Him/Her/You, His/Her/Your, and Himself/Herself/Yourself are often capitalized when referring to a deity. For further archaic forms, and information on the evolution of the personal pronouns of English, see Old English pronouns.


Generic ''you''

The pronoun ''you'' (and its other forms) can be used as a generic or indefinite pronoun, referring to a person in general. A more formal equivalent is the indefinite pronoun ''one'' (reflexive ''oneself'', possessive ''one's''). For example, ''you should keep your secrets to yourself'' may be used in place of the more formal ''one should keep one's secrets to oneself''.


Use of ''he'', ''she'' and ''it''

The masculine pronouns, ''he'', ''him'', and ''his'' are used to refer to male persons. The feminine pronouns ''she'', ''her'', and ''hers'' are used to refer to female persons. ''It'' and ''its'' are normally used to refer to an inanimate object or abstract concept; however, babies and young children may sometimes be referred to as ''it'' (e.g. ''a child needs its mother''). Outside of these very limited contexts, use of ''it'' as a pronoun for people is generally avoided, due to the feeling that it is dehumanizing. Traditionally, in English, if the gender of a person was not known or ambiguous, then the masculine pronouns were often used by default (e.g. ''a good student always does his homework''). Increasingly, though, singular ''they'' is used in such cases (#Singular they, see below). Animals are often referred to as ''it'', but ''he'' and ''she'' are sometimes used for animals when the animal's sex is known and is of interest, particularly for higher animals, especially pets and other domesticated animals. Inanimate objects with which humans have a close relationship, such as ships, cars and countries considered as political, rather than geographical, entities, are sometimes referred to using feminine pronouns such as ''she'' and ''her''. This may also be extended to other entities, such as towns.


Singular ''they''

The singular ''they'' emerged by the 14th century, about a century after the plural ''they''. Even when used with singular meaning, ''they'' takes a plural verb: ''If attacked, the victim should remain exactly where they are.'' Due to this supposed grammatical inconsistency, use of singular ''they'' was discouraged by some grammarians during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in favor of using Gender-specific and gender-neutral pronouns#Generic he, generic ''he''. Since the 1970s, however, this trend has reversed, and singular ''they'' now enjoys widespread acceptance. In the early 21st century, use of singular ''they'' with known individuals emerged for some non-binary people, when the sex or social gender of that person is unknown or unspecified. This is a way of producing gender-neutral language while avoiding other pronouns like ''he or she'', ''he/she'', or ''s/he''.


Case usage

As noted above, most of the personal pronouns have distinct case forms – a subjective (nominative) form and an objective (oblique, accusative) form. In certain instances variation arises in the use of these forms. As a general rule, the subjective form is used when the pronoun is the subject (grammar), subject of a verb, as in ''he kicked the ball'', whereas the objective form is used as the direct or indirect object (grammar), object of a verb, or the object (complement) of a preposition. For example: ''Sue kicked him'', ''someone gave him the ball'', ''Mary was with him''. When used as a predicative expression, i.e. as the complement of a form of the copula (linguistics), copula verb ''be'', the subjective form was traditionally regarded as more correct (as in ''this is I'', ''it was he''), but nowadays the objective form is used predominantly (''this is me'', ''it was him''), and the use of the subjective in such instances is normally regarded as very formal or pedantic; it is more likely (in formal English) when followed by a relative clause (''it is we who sent them to die''). In some cases the subjective may even appear ungrammatical, as in *''is that we in the photograph?'' (where ''us'' would be expected). When a pronoun is linked to other nouns or pronouns by a coordinating conjunction such as ''and'' or ''or'', traditional grammar prescribes that the pronoun should appear in the same form as it would take if it were used alone in the same position: ''Jay and I will arrive later'' (since ''I'' is used for the subject of a verb), but ''between you and me'' (since ''me'' is used for the object of a preposition). However, in informal and less careful usage this rule may not be consistently followed; it is common to hear ''Jay and me will arrive...'' and ''between you and I''. The latter type (use of the subjective form in object position) is seen as an example of hypercorrection, resulting from an awareness that many instances of ''and me'' (like that in the first example) are considered to require correction to ''and I''. Similar deviations from the grammatical norm are quite common in other examples where the pronoun does not stand alone as the subject or object, as in ''Who said us Yorkshiremen'' [grammatical: ''we Yorkshiremen''] ''are tight?'' When a pronoun stands alone without an explicit verb or preposition, the objective form is commonly used, even when traditional grammarians might prefer the subjective: ''Who's sitting here? Me.'' (Here ''I'' might be regarded as grammatically correct, since it is short for ''I am (sitting here)'', but it would sound formal and pedantic, unless followed by ''am''.) A particular case of this type occurs when a pronoun stands alone following the word ''than''. Here the objective form is again predominant in informal usage (''they are older than us''), as would be expected if ''than'' were analyzed as a preposition. However traditionally ''than'' is considered a conjunction (grammar), conjunction, and so in formal and grammatically careful English the pronoun often takes the form that would appear if ''than'' were followed by a clause: ''they are older than we'' (by analogy with ''...than we are''), but ''she likes him better than me'' (if the intended meaning is "...than she likes me"). For more examples of some of these points, see Disjunctive pronoun.


See also

* Generic antecedents * Gender-specific and gender-neutral pronouns *Inanimate whose * One (pronoun) *Who (pronoun) * Reverential capitalization * wikt:Wiktionary:English inflection#Forms of pronouns, Wiktionary table of personal pronouns
Wiktionary list of English pronouns
(comprehensive)


Notes


References


Further reading

* * {{DEFAULTSORT:English Personal Pronouns English personal pronouns, Modern English personal pronouns, Personal pronouns Pronouns by language, English English grammar