Thee, Thou, Thine, etc.

Re: What do “thou,” “thee,” and “thine” mean, and why don’t we use them anymore?, I feel compelled to add a couple of nitpicks.

First of all, SDStaff McCarrertA says we don’t use those words anymore. Actually, we do, just very rarely. To the linguist, if we use a word at all, it is still technically part of the language. And we use it in a religious context, in poetry and so forth. (Compare obsolete words, which we truly don’t use anymore. Shakespeare has some obsolete words in his works. And when you see it, your reaction is typically “What the heck is this?” because you have never heard it before. Get it?)

Maybe that is not what he meant. But it is what he basically said. So I felt compelled to point this out.

Secondly, he doesn’t mention ye. “Ye” is used too, as an archaic word (note again, the difference between archaic and obsolete). In fact, from what I understand, it was even a contender for “you” as the form for the second person in all forms. I just felt compelled to point that out too.

FWIW, here is the list of the original Middle English inflections for the personal pronoun you:

GENITIVE: thy(n) GEN. PLURAL: your

BTW, an interesting side note is this thread (also started by me).


Thou knowest thine archaic English. It always annoys me when people use archaic English incorrectly.

Should be “Thou knows St thy archaic English”

By comparison, you’d say “I know my archaic English,”

I’d write that as “GENITIVE: thy/thine”, with a similar entry under the first person of “GENITIVE: my/mine”. The words “mine” and “thine” were used before vowels, just as “an” is in present-day English, and lasted well past Middle English into the 18th century e.g., “Mine eyes have seen the glory…” or “Drink to me only with thine eyes”.

Actually, the mine/thine-before-vowels thing was a temporary aberration. The real distinction is just as it is today: mine/thine/hers/ours/yours/theirs are the genitives of the personal pronoun. my/thy/her/our/your/their ares what is left of the possessive pronouns (or “possessive adjectives”, as we called them when I was a tad), and his/its are both. It’s hard to tell the difference in Modern English, but you still have the original effect: the genitives are used as as complements (“This house is mine”) and the possessives are used as qualifiers (“My house is green”).

In Old English, the genitive of ic (“I”) is always min (“mine”), but the possessives are declined. I cannot make this appear in a rational form without the ability to make tables, which this forum doesn’t allow.

It says these are “old forms” that “fell out of favor,” not that we don’t use them anymore.

I don’t see anywhere that it says these words are not "part of the language, " nor do I see the term obsolete anywhere in the column.

In any case, as a linguist, I consider contexts such as poetry and religious texts to be highly marked, and not normal speech. Moreover, everyone knows these words in appear in such texts–which is probably exactly how “Jeff” and “Troy” in Michigan know about these words in the first place to ask about them.

I appreciate your concern, but, of the various SD columns with sloppy takes on linguistics, I wouldn’t really see this as one of them, personally.