Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrative Pronouns are words which indicate specific items. We have already seen demonstratives used to mean ‘the’ with our strong nouns, but ‘se’, ‘þæt’ and ‘seo’ can also mean ‘that’. In fact, it should be obvious that the modern word ‘that’ comes from the neuter demonstrative ‘þæt’.

Examine the sentences below. The translation ‘that sheep is bigger and that sheep is smaller’ makes a lot more sense than ‘the sheep is bigger and the sheep is smaller’, so it is important to realise that a 'se' demonstrative might either mean 'the' or 'that' depending on context, even though we have been using them for ‘the’ up until now.

Þæt
Demonstrative
Pronoun  
sceap
Subject
Noun
is
Verb
 
mara
Adjective
 
ond
Conj
 
þæt
Demonstrative
Pronoun  
sceap
Subject
Noun
is
Verb
 
læssa
Adjective
 

It should be noted that while in modern English ‘the’ is considered an article, in Old English ‘the’ is considered to be a demonstrative pronoun because it can be used on its own. For example, examine the sentence below and you will see that the same demonstrative pronouns we have been using for 'the' can be used in much the same was as that, he, she, it. For example, the first sentence could be translated as 'That one was a mournful woman' and the second sentence could be translated as 'She is my daughter' or 'That is my daughter'.

Þæt
Demonstrative
wæs
Verb
geomuru
Adjective
ides
Direct Object

Seo
Demonstrative
is
Verb
min
Possessive
dohtor
Direct Object

Demonstratives can also be used to add more specificity. In modern English, the demonstrative pronouns would be this, that, these, those. They are sometimes known as ‘pointing pronouns’ as they are often used when referencing specific objects or providing location. For example, examine the sentence: The King gave this ring to his wife and that ring to his daughter.

Se cyning
Subject
Noun
geaf
Verb
 
his
Possessive
pronoun
wife
Indirect
Object
þisne
Demonstrative
Pronoun  
beag
Direct
Object

ond
Conj.
 
his
Possessive
Pronoun
dehter
Indirect
Object
þone
Demonstrative
Pronoun
beag
Direct
Object

Pronouns decline for gender in the singular, so 'þes ræd - this counsel', 'þis templ - this temple', 'þeos woruld - this world '. However, you will notice in the table below that the plural is the same for all genders, and where the pronouns are shared in the 'þes' declensions, such as 'þis' being used for both nominative and accusative neuter, they also overlap for the 'se' declensions.

Þes - this
Masculine Neuter Feminine Plural
Nominative þes þis þeos þas
Accusative þisne þis þas þas
Genitive þisses þisses þisse þissa
Dative þissum þissum þisse þissum
Se - that
Masculine Neuter Feminine Plural
Nominative se þæt seo þa
Accusative þone þæt þa þa
Genitive þæs þæs þære þara
Dative þæm þæm þære þæm

Masculine and neuter demonstratives are consistent in their spelling, but there are many variant spellings for the feminine and plural genitive and dative forms. If you see 'þisre' or 'þeosse', these are valid alternate spellings for both the genitive and dative feminine demonstrative of 'þes'. The plural genitive can be 'þisra' or 'þeossa', and the plural dative can be 'þisum', 'þissum', 'þeosum' or 'þeossum'. '

You can practice using both types of demonstrative pronouns below. When you're ready, you can continue on to the next topic using the right link below.

Return to Dual Pronouns Continue to Relative Pronouns

Test Your Declensions


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