How to use thee, thou, ye, etc. as of 1767

Pronouns in the 18th century

Ever wondered the proper use of thee, thou, thy, and thine?

James Buchanan, in 1767, published A Regular English Syntax, Wherein is Exhibited the Whole Variety of English Construction, Properly Exemplified; To Which is Added the Elegant Manner of Arranging Words, and Members of Sentences; the Whole Reduced to Practice, for the Use of Private Young Gentlemen and Ladies, as well as of our Most Eminent Schools.

In addition to having a ridiculously long title, this book contains great information on the use of English in the eighteenth century. One of the most frequently asked about terms are those “th” pronouns, so common for centuries, but which fell into disuse in the 19th century, and were almost completely forgotten during the 20th century.

(The author uses the term “foregoing state” for what we now call “subject” pronouns, and “following state” for “object” or “predicate” pronouns.)

Also note that “ye” is always a plural subject. This pronoun is often confused in modern parlance, especially people who celebrate “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” attend SCA gatherings, or visit a Renaissance Faire. Here’s my advice–learn to use these pronouns properly, and then take a screen shot of this chart with your phone and argue with anyone who use them improperly. I also think that consumption of grog facilitates grammatical reasoning, so be sure to drink up first! 🙂

thee thou thy thine ye whereof