The pronoun I // is the first-person singular nominative case personal pronoun in Modern English. It is used to refer to one's self and is capitalized, although other pronouns, such as he or she, are not capitalized.
The grammatical variants of I are me, my, mine, and myself.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Capitalization
- 3 Case forms
- 4 Personal pronouns in modern English
- 5 Older versions
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 Bibliography
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
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English I originates from Old English (OE) ic. Its predecessor ic had in turn originated from the continuation of Proto-Germanic *ik, and ek; the asterisk denotes an unattested form, 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.
The Proto-Germanic root came, in turn, from the Proto Indo-European language (PIE). The reconstructed PIE pronoun is *egō, egóm, with cognates including Sanskrit aham, Hittite uk, Latin ego, Greek ἐγώ egō, Old Slavonic azъ and Alviri-Vidari (an Iranian language) اَز az.
The oblique forms are formed from a stem *me- (English me), the plural from *wei- (English we), the oblique plurals from *ns- (English us) and from Proto-Germanic *unseraz, PIE *no-s-ero- (our, ours).
I (and only this form of the pronoun) is the only pronoun that is always capitalized in English.[i] This practice became established in the late 15th century, though lowercase i was sometimes found as late as the 17th century.
- I, the nominative (or subjective[ii]) case form
- me, the accusative (or objective[ii]) case form
- my, the dependent genitive (or possessive adjective[ii]) case form
- mine, the independent genitive case form (or possessive pronoun[ii])
Use of I and me
There are some situations in which only the nominative form (I) is grammatically correct and others in which only the accusative form (me) is correct. There are also situations in which one form is used in informal style (and was often considered ungrammatical by older prescriptive grammars) and the other form is preferred in formal style.
Exclusive use of nominative I
- "I did it."
- * "Me did it."[iv]
With other pronouns, such as we (strictly speaking when used as a personal determiner), there may be exceptions to this in some varieties of English.
Exclusive use of accusative me
In all varieties of standard English, the accusative form me is used exclusively when it is the whole[iii] direct or indirect object[v] of a verb or preposition. The accusative me is also required in a number of constructions such as "Silly me!"
Alternative use of nominative and accusative
In many situations, both the nominative I and the accusative me are encountered.
When the pronoun is used as a subjective predicative complement, the nominative I is sometimes encountered in (very) formal style:
- "It is I."
But this is often seen as hypercorrect and may be unacceptable, as in:
- * "This one [photograph] is I as a baby.[iv]
Me is usually preferred as a subjective predicate, especially in informal style:
- "This is me as a baby."
- "It's me!"
The nominative I is more common in this role when it is followed by a relative clause:
- "It is I she loves."
- "It is I who love you."
though even here me is more common in non-formal style:
- "It's me she loves."
- "It's me who loves you."
Following as or than (without a following explicit verb), the accusative form is common:
- "She is older than me."
However, where it is possible to think of the pronoun as the subject of an implicit verb and than or as as a conjunction, the nominative I is found in formal style:
- "She is older than I [am]."
In Australian English, British English and Irish English, many speakers have an unstressed form of my that is identical to me (see archaic and non-standard forms of English personal pronouns).
The above applies when the pronoun stands alone as the subject or object. In some varieties English (particularly formal English), those rules also apply in coordinative constructions such as "you and I". So the correct form is
- "My husband and I wish you a merry Christmas."
- "Between you and me ..."
In some varieties of non-standard informal English, the accusative is sometimes used when the pronoun is part of a coordinative subject construction, as in
- "Phil and me wish you a merry Christmas."
This is highly stigmatized.
On the other hand, the use of the nominative I in coordinative constructions like "you and I"where me would be used in a non-coordinative object is less stigmatized – and in some cases so widespread as to be considered a variety of standard English:
- "President Bush graciously invited Michelle and I to meet with him ..."
- "All debts are cleared between you and I".
Personal pronouns in modern English
|Person (gender)||Subject||Object||Dependent possessive||Independent possessive||Reflexive|
|1st||Singular||iċ||[ɪtʃ]||mec / mē||mē||mīn|
|Plural||wē||[weː]||ūsic||ūs||ūser / ūre|
|2nd||Singular||þū||[θuː]||þec / þē||þē||þīn|
|Person (gender)||Subject||Object||Possessive determiner||Possessive pronoun||Reflexive|
|ic / ich / I
|me / mi
|min / minen [pl.]
|min / mire / minre
|min one / mi selven|
|þou / þu / tu / þeou
|þi / ti
|þin / þyn
|þeself / þi selven |
|him[a] / hine[b]
|his / hisse / hes
|his / hisse
|sche[o] / s[c]ho / ȝho
|heo / his / hie / hies / hire
|hio / heo / hire / heore
|hit / him
|hit sulue |
|us / ous
|ure[n] / our[e] / ures / urne
|us self / ous silve |
|ȝe / ye
|eow / [ȝ]ou / ȝow / gu / you
|eower / [ȝ]ower / gur / [e]our
|Ȝou self / ou selve |
|Third||From Old English||heo / he||his / heo[m]||heore / her||-||-|
|From Old Norse||þa / þei / þeo / þo||þem / þo||þeir||-||þam-selue|
Many other variations are noted in Middle English sources due to difference in spellings and pronunciations. See Francis Henry Stratmann (1891). A Middle-English dictionary. [London]: Oxford University Press. and A Concise Dictionary of Middle English from A.D. 1150 TO 1580, A. L. Mayhew, Walter W. Skeat, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1888.
|1st person||singular||I||me||my/mine[# 1]||mine|
|2nd person||singular informal||thou||thee||thy/thine[# 1]||thine|
|plural or formal singular||ye, you||you||your||yours|
|3rd person||singular||he/she/it||him/her/it||his/her/his (it)[# 2]||his/hers/his[# 2]|
- The genitives my, mine, thy, and thine are used as possessive adjectives before a noun, or as possessive pronouns without a noun. All four forms are used as possessive adjectives: mine and thine are used before nouns beginning in a vowel sound, or before nouns beginning in the letter h, which was usually silent (e.g. thine eyes and mine heart, which was pronounced as mine art) and my and thy before consonants (thy mother, my love). However, only mine and thine are used as possessive pronouns, as in it is thine and they were mine (not *they were my).
- From the early Early Modern English period up until the 17th century, his was the possessive of the third-person neuter it as well as of the third-person masculine he. Genitive "it" appears once in the 1611 King James Bible (Leviticus 25:5) as groweth of it owne accord.
- 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.
- 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.
- Not part of a coordinative construction with and, for instance.
- The asterisk preceding this example indicates that the utterance is not acceptable in standard English. For an explanation of this linguistic convention, see Asterisk#Linguistics
- including the subject of a non-finite clause introduced by for, e.g. "For me to do that would be more than a crime."
- OED online.
- Fowler 2015.
- Huddleston & Pullum 2002, p. 458.
- Huddleston & Pullum 2002, pp. 458-459.
- Huddleston & Pullum 2002, p. 459.
- Huddleston & Pullum 2002, pp. 461–462.
- Huddleston & Pullum 2002, pp. 459–461.
- Huddleston & Pullum 2002, p. 460.
- Huddleston & Pullum 2002, pp. 462–463.
- Huddleston & Pullum 2002, pp. 462-463.
- Huddleston & Pullum 2002, p. 463.
- "Oxford English Dictionary Online". (Subscription required (help)).
- Fowler, H.W. (2015). Butterfield, Jeremy, ed. Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-966135-0.
- Huddleston, Rodney; Pullum, Geoffrey (2002). The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-43146-8.
- "Etymology of I". etymonline.com. Douglas Harper, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2010.[unreliable source?]
- "Etymology of Me". etymonline.com. Douglas Harper, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2010.[unreliable source?]
- Halleck, Elaine (editor). "Sum: Pronoun "I" again". LINGUIST List 9.253., n.p., Web. 20 Feb. 1998.[unreliable source?]
- Jacobsen, Martin (editor). "Sum: Pronoun 'I'". LINGUIST List 9.253., n.p., Web. 20 Feb. 1998.[unreliable source?]
- Mahoney, Nicole. "Language Change". nsf.gov. n.p. 12 July 2008. Web. 21 Dec. 2010
- Wells, Edward. "Further Elucidation on the Capitalization of 'I' in English". (a paper in progress). Lingforum.com. n.p., Web. 25 Dec. 2010[unreliable source?]
- 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. 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.
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