he (pronoun)
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Modern English Modern English (sometimes New English or NE (ME) as opposed to Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) is a form of the English language that was spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conquest of 1066, until the lat ...
, ''he'' is a singular, masculine, 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 o ...
.


Morphology

In Standard 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 ...
: * ''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 ...
(subjective) form * ''him'': the
accusative The accusative case ( abbreviated ) of a noun A noun () is a word that generally 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 ...
(objective) form (also called the
oblique case In grammar, an oblique (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ; from la, casus obliquus) or objective case (list of glossing abbreviations, abbr. ) is a nominal noun case, case other than the nominative case, and sometimes, the Vocative ca ...
)) * ''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 relationshi ...
(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 of the Indo-European language family, with its earliest forms spoken by the inhabita ...
had a single third-person pronoun — from the
Proto-Germanic Proto-Germanic (abbreviated PGmc; also called Common Germanic) is the linguistic reconstruction, reconstructed proto-language of the Germanic languages, Germanic branch of the Indo-European languages. Proto-Germanic eventually developed from ...
demonstrative Demonstratives (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) are words, such as ''this'' and ''that'', used to indicate which entities are being referred to and to distinguish those entities from others. They are typically deictic; their meaning ...
base *''khi''-, from PIE *''ko''- "this" — which had a plural and three genders 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) is a form of the English language that was spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conquest of 1066, until the late 15th century. The English language underwent distinct variations and developments ...
, 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 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,
determiner A determiner, also called determinative (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ), is a word, phrase, or affix that occurs together with a noun or noun phrase and generally serves to express the reference of that noun or noun phrase in the ...
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 phrases. *
Relative clause A relative clause is a clause that modifies a noun or noun phraseRodney 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 arguments ...
modifier: ''he who arrives late'' *
Determiner A determiner, also called determinative (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ), is a word, phrase, or affix that occurs together with a noun or noun phrase and generally serves to express the reference of that noun or noun phrase in the ...
: A: ''Somebody was here, and he left this''. B: ''I'm that he.'' *
Adjective phrase An adjective phrase (or adjectival phrase) is a phrase whose Head (linguistics), head is an adjective. Almost any grammar or syntax textbook or dictionary of linguistics terminology defines the adjective phrase in a similar way, e.g. Kesner Bland (1 ...
modifier: ''the real him'' *
Adverb phrase In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and st ...
external modifier: ''Not even him''


Semantics

''He'''s referents are generally limited to individual
male Male (Mars symbol, symbol: ♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete (sex cell) known as sperm, which fuses with the larger female gamete, or ovum, in the process of fertilization. A male organism cannot sexual reproduction, repro ...
persons A person (plural, : people) 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, ownership of pr ...
, excluding the speaker and the addressee. ''He'' is always
definite In linguistics, definiteness is a semantic feature of noun phrases, distinguishing between referents or Sense and reference, senses that are identifiable in a given context (definite noun phrases) and those which are not (indefinite noun phrases) ...
and usually specific.


Generic

The pronoun ''he'' can 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 femininity and masculinity and differentiating between them. Depending on the context, this may include sex-based social structures (i.e. gender roles) and gender identity. Most cultures us ...
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.'' The dominant epicene pronoun in modern written British English is 'they'. Many style guides now reject the generic 'he'.


Deities

When speaking of
God In monotheistic thought, God is usually viewed as the supreme being, creator, and principal object of faith. Swinburne, R.G. "God" in Honderich, Ted. (ed)''The Oxford Companion to Philosophy'', Oxford University Press, 1995. God is typicall ...
,
Jesus Christ Jesus, likely from he, יֵשׁוּעַ, translit=Yēšūaʿ, label=Hebrew/Aramaic ( AD 30 or 33), also referred to as Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth (among other Names and titles of Jesus in the New Testament, names and titles), was ...
or the
Holy Spirit In Judaism Judaism ( he, ''Yahăḏūṯ'') is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, monotheism, monotheistic, and ethnic religion comprising the collective religious, cultural, and legal tradition and civilization of the Jewish people. I ...
, 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 ...
use the capitalised forms "He", "His" and "Him" in writing, and in some translations of the Bible.


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 dictionary of English published by Boston publisher Houghton Mifflin, the first edition of which appeared in 1969. Its creation was spurred by the controversy ...
'', 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 Dist ...
, 2000).


See also

*
English personal pronouns The English personal pronouns are a subset of English pronouns taking various forms according to grammatical number, number, grammatical person, person, grammatical case, case and natural gender. Modern English has very little inflection of nouns ...
* Gender neutrality in languages with gendered third-person pronouns * 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