I (pronoun)

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In Modern English, I is the singular, first-person pronoun.


In Standard Modern English, I has five distinct word forms:

  • I: the nominative (subjective[i]) form
    • I is the only pronoun form that is always capitalized in English.[ii] This practice became established in the late 15th century, though lowercase i was sometimes found as late as the 17th century.[1]
  • me: the accusative (objective[i]) forms (The accusative case is also called the 'oblique'.[2]: 146 )
  • my: the dependent genitive (possessive[i]) form
  • mine: the independent genitive
  • myself: the reflexive form


Old English had a first person pronoun that inflected for four cases and three numbers. I originates from Old English (OE) ic, which had in turn originated from the continuation of Proto-Germanic *ik, and ek;[3] The asterisk denotes an unattested form, but ek was attested in the Elder Futhark inscriptions (in some cases notably showing the variant eka; see also ek erilaz). Linguists assume ik to have developed from the unstressed variant of ek. Variants of ic were used in various English dialects up until the 1600s.[4] The Proto-Germanic root came, in turn, from the Proto Indo-European language (PIE) *eg-.[3]

Old and Middle English first-person pronouns
Singular Dual Plural
Early OE Late OE ME Early Late ME Early Late ME
Nominative ic I wit wit we
Accusative meċ uncit unc usiċ ūs us
Dative me unc ūs
Genitive mīn mīn (n) uncer uncer ūser ūre our(es)

*Early OE circa 700 CE,[5]: 144  late,[6]: 117  and ME[6]: 120 

Old English me and mec are from Proto-Germanic *meke (accusative) and *mes (dative).[7] Mine is from Proto-Germanic *minaz,[8] and my is a reduced form of mine.[9] All of these are from PIE root *me-.[7][8]



I can appear as a subject, object, determiner, or predicative complement.[10] The reflexive form also appears as an adjunct. Me occasionally appears as a modifier in a noun phrase.

  • Subject: I'm here; me being here; my being there; I paid for myself to be here.
  • Object: She saw me; She introduced him to me; I saw myself.
  • Predicative complement: The only person there was me / I.
  • Dependent determiner: I met my friend.
  • Independent determiner: This is mine.
  • Adjunct: I did it myself.
  • Modifier: the me generation

Coordinative constructions[edit]

The above applies when the pronoun stands alone as the subject or object. In some varieties of English (particularly in formal registers), those rules also apply in coordinative constructions such as "you and I".[11]

  • "My husband and I wish you a merry Christmas."
  • "Between you and me..."

In many dialects of informal English, the accusative is sometimes used when the pronoun is part of a coordinative subject construction,[11] as in

  • "Phil and me wish you a merry Christmas."

This is stigmatized but common in many dialects.[11]


Pronouns rarely take dependents, but it is possible for me to have many of the same kind of dependents as other noun phrases.


I's referents are limited to the individual person speaking or writing, the first person. I is always definite and specific.


According to the OED, the following pronunciations are used:

Form Plain Unstressed Recording
I (UK) /ʌɪ/

(US) /aɪ/

female speaker with UK accent
me (UK) /miː/

(US) /mi/

/mi/, /mɪ/


female speaker with US accent
my /mʌɪ/ /maɪ/
female speaker with US accent
mine /mʌɪn/ /maɪn/
female speaker with US accent
myself (UK) /mʌɪˈsɛlf/

(US) /maɪˈsɛlf/



female speaker with US accent


  1. ^ a b c Terminological note:
    Authorities use different terms for the inflectional (case) forms of the personal pronouns, such as the oblique-case form me, which is used as a direct object, indirect object, or object of a preposition, as well as other uses. For instance, one standard work on English grammar, A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, uses the term objective case, while another, The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, uses the term accusative case. Similarly, some use the term nominative for the form I, while others use the term subjective. Some authorities use the term genitive for forms such as my where others use the term possessive. Some grammars refer to my and mine, respectively, as the dependent genitive and the independent genitive, while others call my a possessive adjective and mine a possessive pronoun.
  2. ^ Other pronouns may be capitalized when referring to the Deity ("God's in His heaven") and, of course, when beginning a sentence. The capitalization of the first person pronoun is distinctive of English, although it is common in other languages to capitalize a second person pronoun, for example Sie in German, Ce in Kashubian, Cię in Polish, and Anda in Indonesian.


  1. ^ Fowler 2015.
  2. ^ Lass, Roger, ed. (1999). The Cambridge history of the English Language: Volume III 1476–1776. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^ a b "i | Origin and meaning of the name i by Online Etymology Dictionary". www.etymonline.com. Retrieved 2021-03-27.
  4. ^ OED online.
  5. ^ Hogg, Richard, ed. (1992). The Cambridge history of the English language: Volume I The beginnings to 1066. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  6. ^ a b Blake, Norman, ed. (1992). The Cambridge history of the English Language: Volume II 1066–1476. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  7. ^ a b "me | Search Online Etymology Dictionary". www.etymonline.com. Retrieved 2021-03-27.
  8. ^ a b "mine | Origin and meaning of mine by Online Etymology Dictionary". www.etymonline.com. Retrieved 2021-03-27.
  9. ^ "my | Origin and meaning of my by Online Etymology Dictionary". www.etymonline.com. Retrieved 2021-03-27.
  10. ^ Huddleston & Pullum 2002.
  11. ^ a b c Huddleston & Pullum 2002, pp. 462–463.


Further reading[edit]

  • Howe, Stephen (1996). The personal pronouns in the Germanic languages: a study of personal pronoun morphology and change in the Germanic languages from the first records to the present day. Studia linguistica Germanica. Vol. 43. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-014636-3.
  • Gaynesford, M. de (2006). I: The Meaning of the First Person Term. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-928782-1..
  • Wales, Katie (1996). Personal pronouns in present-day English. Studies in English language. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-47102-8.