History of English

History of English

History of English


In Early Modern English, there were two second-person personal pronouns: thou, the informal singular pronoun, and ye, which was both the plural pronoun and the formal singular pronoun (like modern French tu and vous). (Thou was already falling out of use in the Early Modern English period, but remained customary for addressing God and certain other solemn occasions and sometimes for addressing inferiors.) Like other personal pronouns, thou and ye had different forms depending on their grammatical case; specifically, the objective form of thou was thee, its possessive forms were thy and thine, and its reflexive or emphatic form was thyself, while the objective form of ye was you, its possessive forms were your and yours, and its reflexive or emphatic forms were yourself and yourselves.

In other respects, the pronouns were much the same as today. One difference is that, much as a becomes an before a vowel, my and thy became mine and thine before vowels as well; thus, mine eyes, thine uncle, and so on.

Personal pronouns in Early Modern English






1st Person




my / mine[1]







2nd Person

singular informal



thy / thine[1]


plural or formal singular





3rd Person


he / she / it

him / her / it

his / her / his (its)[2]

his / hers / his (its)[2]






  1. a b In a deliberately archaic style, the possessive forms are used as the genitive before words beginning with a vowel sound (for example, thine eyes) similar to how an is used instead of a in an eye. This practice is followed irregularly in the King James Bible but is more regular in earlier literature, such as the Middle English texts of Geoffrey Chaucer. Otherwise, "my" and "thy" is attributive (my/thy goods) and "mine" and "thine" are predicative (they are mine/thine). Shakespeare pokes fun at this custom with an archaic plural for eyes when the character Bottom says "mine eyen" in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

  2. a b From the early Early Modern English period up until the 17th century, his was the possessive of the third person neuter it as well as of the 3rd person masculine he. Later, the neologismits became common. "Its" appears only once in the 1611 King James Bible (Leviticus 25:5).


Verb conjugations in the "thou" form (second person informal singular) end in -(e)st (e.g. "thou takest"). In Early Modern English, third person singular conjugations end in -(e)th instead of -s (e.g. "he taketh"). Both the second person informal singular and third person singular lost their endings in the subjunctive, which uses the bare stem of the verb.

The perfect tenses of the verbs had not yet been standardized to all use the auxiliary verb "to have". Some took as their auxiliary verb "to be", as in this example from the King James Bible, "But which of you ... will say unto him ... when he is come from the field, Go and sit down..." [Luke XVII:7]. The rules that were followed as to which verbs took which auxiliaries were similar to those still used in German and French.

Examples of the usage of pronouns and verbs in Early Middle English:

1. Exodus 4:15, "THOU shalt speak ... I will be with THY mouth...and will teach YOU what YE shall do."

2. Exodus 29:42, "…I will meet YOU, to speak there unto THEE."

3. 2 Samuel 7:23, "And what one nation in the earth is like THY people, even like Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to himself, and to make him a name, and to do for YOU great things and terrible, for THY land, before THY people, which THOU redeemedst to THEE from Egypt."

4. Matthew 26:64, "Jesus saith unto him, THOU has said: nevertheless I say unto YOU, hereafter shall YE see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven."

5. Luke 5:24, "But that YE may know…I say unto THEE…take up THY couch, and go into THINE house."

6. John 3:7, 11, "Marvel not that I said unto THEE, YE must be born again."

7. John 14:9, "Have I been so long time with YOU, and yet hast THOU not known me?"

8. 1 Corinthians 8:9-12, "…this liberty of YOURS....If any man see THEE which hast knowledge... through THY knowledge...but when YE sin."

Our Father, who art in heavenhallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.Give us this day our daily breadAnd forgive us our trespasses,as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Examples in Shakespearean writing:

O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?

Deny thy father and refuse thy name;

Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love

If thine enemy wrong thee, buy each of his children a drum.

To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.


Translate the following passages of King James’s bible into Modern English:

And these [are] the judgments which thou dost set before them:

When thou buyest a Hebrew servant - six years he doth serve, and in the seventh he goeth out as a freeman for nought;

If by himself he cometh in, by himself he goeth out; if he [is] owner of a wife, then his wife hath gone out with him;

If his lord give to him a wife, and she hath borne to him sons or daughters - the wife and her children are her lord’s, and he goeth out by himself.

Then hath his lord brought him nigh unto God, and hath brought him nigh unto the door, or unto the side-post, and his lord hath bored his ear with an awl, and he hath served him - to the age.

And when a man selleth his daughter for a handmaid, she doth not go out according to the going out of the men-servants;

If evil in the eyes of her lord, so that he hath not betrothed her, then he hath let her be ransomed; to a strange people he hath not power to sell her, in his dealing treacherously with her.

And if to his son he betroth her, according to the right of daughters he doth to her.

If another [woman] he take for him, her food, her covering, and her habitation, he doth not withdraw.