He (pronoun)
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In
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 ...

Modern English
, ''he'' is a
singular Singular may refer to: * Singular, the grammatical number In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verb agreement (linguistics), agreement that expresses count distinctions (such as "one", ...
,
masculine Masculinity (also called manhood or manliness) is a set of attributes, behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour (British English; American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, see spelling differences) is the Action ...
, third-person
pronoun In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is a word or a group of words that one may substitute for a noun or noun phrase. Pronouns have traditionally been regarded as one of the part of speech, parts of ...
.


Morphology

In
Standard Standard may refer to: Flags * Colours, standards and guidons * Standard (flag), a type of flag used for personal identification Norm, convention or requirement * Standard (metrology), an object that bears a defined relationship to a unit of ...
Modern English, ''he'' has four shapes representing five distinct word
forms Form is the shape, visual appearance, or :wikt:configuration, configuration of an object. In a wider sense, the form is the way something happens. Form also refers to: *Form (document), a document (printed or electronic) with spaces in which to w ...
: * ''he'': the
nominative In grammar, the nominative case (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ), subjective case, straight case or upright case is one of the grammatical cases of a noun or other part of speech, which generally marks the subject (grammar), subject o ...
(subjective) form * ''him'': the
accusative The accusative case (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of (some or all) prepositions. It is ...
(objective) form (also called the
oblique case In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as we ...
) * ''his:'' the dependent and independent
genitive In grammar, the genitive case (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is the grammatical case that marks a word, usually a noun, as modifying another word, also usually a noun—thus indicating an attributive noun, attributive relationship ...
(possessive) forms * ''himself'': the reflexive form


History

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 ...
had a single third-person pronoun — from the
Proto-Germanic Proto-Germanic (abbreviated PGmc; also called Common Germanic) is the reconstructed Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new ...
demonstrative Demonstratives (abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full version of the word or phrase; for ...
base *''khi''-, from
PIE A pie is a baked dish which is usually made of a pastry Pastry is a dough of flour, water and shortening (solid fats, including butter) that may be Savoriness, savoury or sweetened. Sweetened pastries are often described as ''Flour confect ...
*''ko''- "this" — which had a plural and three
genders Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, femininity and masculinity. Depending on the context, these characteristics may include biological sex, sex-based social structures (i.e., gender roles), or gende ...
in the singular. The modern pronoun '' it'' developed out of the neuter singular, starting to appear without the ''h'' in the 12th century. ''Her'' developed out of the feminine singular dative and genitive forms, while the other feminine forms and the plural were replaced with other words. The older pronoun had the following forms: In the 12th century, ''it'' started to separate and appear without an ''h''. Around the same time, one case was lost, and distinct pronouns started to develop. The ''-self'' forms developed in early
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. The English language underwent distinct variations and developments following ...
, with ''hine self'' becoming ''himself.'' By the 15th century, the Middle English forms of ''he'' had solidified into those we use today.


Gender

''He'' had three
genders Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, femininity and masculinity. Depending on the context, these characteristics may include biological sex, sex-based social structures (i.e., gender roles), or gende ...
in Old English, but in Middle English, the neuter and feminine genders split off. Today, ''he'' is the only masculine pronoun in English. In the 18th century, it was suggested as a gender-neutral pronoun, and was thereafter often prescribed in manuals of style and school textbooks until around the 1960s. In 2019 the Meriam-Webster dictionary added the singular ''they'' after seeing a spike in search interest.


Syntax


Functions

''He'' can appear as a subject,
object Object may refer to: General meanings * Object (philosophy), a thing, being, or concept ** Entity, something that is tangible and within the grasp of the senses ** Object (abstract), an object which does not exist at any particular time or pl ...
,
determiner A determiner, also called determinative ( abbreviated ), is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practic ...
or predicative complement. The reflexive form also appears as an adjunct. ''He'' occasionally appears as a modifier in a noun phrase. * Subject: ''He's there; him being there''; ''his being there''; ''he paid for himself to be there.'' * Object: ''I saw him''; ''I introduced her to him; He saw himself.'' * Predicative complement: ''The only person there was him.'' * Dependent determiner: ''I met his friend.'' * Independent determiner: ''This is his.'' * Adjunct: ''He did it himself.'' * Modifier: ''The he goat was missing.''


Dependents

Pronouns rarely take dependents, but it is possible for ''he'' to have many of the same kind of dependents as other
noun phrasesA noun phrase, or nominal (phrase), is a phrase In everyday speech, a phrase is any group of words, often carrying a special idiomatic meaning; in this sense it is synonymous with expression. In Linguistics#Analysis, linguistic analysis, a phrase is ...
. *
Relative clause A relative clause is typically a clause that modifies a noun or noun phrase,Rodney D. Huddleston, Geoffrey K. Pullum, ''A Student's Introduction to English Grammar'', CUP 2005, p. 183ff. and uses some grammatical device to indicate that one of the ...
modifier: ''he who arrives late'' *
Determiner A determiner, also called determinative ( abbreviated ), is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practic ...
: A: ''Somebody was here, and he left this''. B: ''I'm that he.'' *
Adjective phraseAn adjective phrase (or adjectival phrase) is a phrase In everyday speech, a phrase is any group of words, often carrying a special idiomatic meaning; in this sense it is synonymous with expression. In Linguistics#Analysis, linguistic analysis, a ph ...
modifier: ''the real him'' *
Adverb phrase In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ph ...
external modifier: ''Not even him''


Semantics

''He'''s referents are generally limited to individual
male Male (♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete known as sperm. A male gamete can fuse with a larger female gamete, or ovum, in the process of fertilization. A male cannot sexual reproduction, reproduce sexually without access to at ...

male
persons A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic by Logical consequence, drawing conclusions from new or existing information, with the ...

persons
, excluding the speaker and the addressee. ''He'' is always
definite In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
and usually specific.


Generic

The pronoun ''he'' can also be used to refer to an unspecified person, as in ''If you see someone in trouble, help him.'' (See
Gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between femininity Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women and girls. Althoug ...

Gender
above). This can seem very unnatural, even ungrammatical, as in these examples: * ?''When somebody gives birth, it's good for him to have assistance.'' * ?''If either your mother or father would like to discuss it, I'll talk to him.''


Deities

When speaking of
God God, in monotheistic thought, is conceived of as the supreme being, creator, and principal object of faith Faith, derived from Latin ''fides'' and Old French ''feid'', is confidence or trust in a person, thing, or In the context of religio ...
,
Jesus Christ Jesus, likely from he, יֵשׁוּעַ, translit=Yēšūaʿ, label=Hebrew/Aramaic ( AD 30 / 33), also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Christ, is the central figure of Christianity, the Major religious groups, world's largest r ...

Jesus Christ
or the
Holy Spirit In Abrahamic religions, the Holy Spirit is an aspect or agent of God in Abrahamic religions, God, by means of which God communicates with people or acts on them. In Judaism, it refers to the divine force, quality, and influence of God over the ...

Holy Spirit
, some
Christians Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of Jes ...

Christians
use the capitalised forms "He", "His" and "Him" in writing, and in some
translations of the Bible The Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία, ''tà biblía'', "the books") is a collection of religious texts or scriptures sacred to Christians, Jews, Samaritans, Rastafari and others. It appears in the form of an anthol ...
.


Pronunciation

According to the OED, the following pronunciations are used:


References


Notes


Further reading

* "He", ''
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language ''The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language'' (''AHD'') is an American English, American dictionary of English published by Boston publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Houghton Mifflin, the first edition of which appeared in 1969. I ...
'', Fourth edition, (Boston:
Houghton Mifflin Company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (; HMH) is an American publisher of textbooks, instructional technology materials, assessments, reference works, and fiction and non-fiction for both young readers and adults. The company is based in the Financial Distr ...
, 2000).


See also

*
English personal pronouns The English personal pronouns are a subset of English 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 ...

English personal pronouns
*
Gender neutrality in languages with gendered third-person pronouns A third-person pronoun is a pronoun that refers to an entity other than the speaker or listener. The English pronouns ''he'' and ''she'' are third-person personal pronouns specific to the gender of the person (not to be confused with grammatical ...
* Generic antecedent * Third-person pronoun {{Use dmy dates, date=August 2019 English grammar Modern English personal pronouns Middle English personal pronouns Old English personal pronouns Terms for men