Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns are substitutes for proper nouns. Just like in modern English, Old English personal pronouns show the grammatical person, gender, number, and case of the noun it replaces. Examine 'I' and 'You' in the two sentences below and don't forget that verbs conjugate differently depending on their subject.

Ic
Personal
Pronoun
lufie
First Person
Verb
þe
Direct
Object
Þu
Personal
Pronoun
lufast
Second Person
Verb
me
Direct
Object

The variety of pronouns may seem overwhelming at first, but most words should still be recognisable as personal pronouns have not changed significantly. For example, in modern English, I, you, he, she, we, ye, they, all function as subject pronouns, while me, him, her, us, them function as object pronouns. Examine the table below and look for similarities between the modern English pronouns and Old English pronouns. Some words, like 'thee' and 'thine', have fallen out of modern usage but should still be recognisable as an old-fashioned way of saying 'you' and 'yours', making the Old English easier to understand.

Nom Acc Gen Dat
1st Person Sing ic me min me
2nd Person Sing þu þe þin þe
3rd Person Sing he / heo hine /heo his / hire him / hire
1st Person Plural we us ure us
2nd Person Plural ge eow eower eow
3rd Person Plural hie hie hira heom

You will notice in the table above that the third-person pronouns are inflected for gender, but only in the singular. So 'he' and 'heo' are used for 'he' and 'she', while plural pronouns are not declined for gender. Examine the two sentences below: He gave us our dogs, and she gave me my dog.

He
Subject
Pronoun
geaf
Verb
 
us
Indirect
Pronoun  
ure
Possessive
Pronoun
hundas
Direct
Object

Heo
Subject
Pronoun
geaf
Verb
 
me
Indirect
Pronoun  
min
Possessive
Pronoun
hund
Direct
Object

Personal pronouns are used reflexively in Old English more often than in modern English. In Old English, verbs which refer to self or motion of self usually take a reflexive pronoun even where it would not in modern English. For example, the sentence, ic me ne ondred, translated literally could be interpreted as 'I myself not afraid' but a more accurate translation is 'I was not afraid'. You can see another example in the sentence below which could be translated as 'the king himself travelled to the town'.

Se cyning
Subject
Noun
hine
Reflexive
Pronoun
wende
Verb
 
to
Prep.
 
þæm tune
Indirect
Object

You may also see the word 'self' or ‘sylfe in use with pronouns. While it appears to be a reflexive pronoun, this should be considered an emphatic pronoun more so than reflexive, as it is generally treated as an adjective used to emphasise an existing noun or pronoun. So in the sentence below it is 'hine' which is the object ‘himself’, not 'sylfne'. Sylfne just emphasises the 'hine' and ‘hine’ would still mean ‘himself’ without it.

Iudas
Subject
Noun
hine
Reflexive
Pronoun
sylfne
Emphatic
Pronoun
aheng
Verb
 

You will also notice 'sylf' above is declined strangely. This is because 'self' is usually treated like an adjective. Adjectives will be covered in a later module, so for now, just know that 'self' or 'sylf' are for emphasis and always pair with an existing noun or pronoun in the sentence.

Return to Intro to Pronouns Continue to Dual Pronouns

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