I (pronoun)

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This article is about the English personal pronoun. For other uses, see I (disambiguation).

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.

Etymology[edit]

English I originates from Old English (OE) ic. Its predecessor ic had in turn originated from the continuation of Proto-Germanic ik, and ek; 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.[1]

Germanic cognates are: Old Frisian ik, Old Norse ek (Danish, Norwegian jeg, Swedish jag, Icelandic ég), Old High German ih (German ich) and Gothic ik and in Dutch also "ik".

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 and Old Slavonic azъ, 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 plural from *ns- (English us).

Capitalization[edit]

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.[2]

Case forms[edit]

Like the other English personal pronouns we (us), he (him), she (her), and they (them), the pronoun I has several singular case forms.[ii] These are:[3]

  • 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[edit]

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.[3]

Exclusive use of nominative I[edit]

In all varieties of standard English, the nominative form I is used exclusively when it is the whole[iii] subject of an explicit verb,[4] e.g.

  • "I did it."

not

  • * "Me did it."

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.[5]

Exclusive use of accusative me[edit]

In all varieties of standard English, the accusative form me is used exclusively when it is the whole[iii] direct or indirect object[iv] of a verb or preposition.[5] The accusative me is also required in a number of constructions such as "Silly me!"[6]

Alternative use of nominative and accusative[edit]

In many situations, both the nominative I and the accusative me are encountered.[7]

When the pronoun is used as a subjective predicative complement, the nominative I is sometimes encountered in (very) formal style:[7]

  • "It is I."

But this is often seen as hypercorrect and may be unacceptable, as in:

  • * "This one [photograph] is I as a baby.

Me is usually preferred as a subjective predicate, especially in informal style:[5]

  • "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:[5]

  • "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:[8]

  • "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:[8]

  • "She is older than I [am]."

In Australian English, British English and Irish English, me can be used as the possessive instead of my (see archaic and non-standard forms of English personal pronouns).

Coordinative constructions[edit]

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".[9] 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,[9] as in

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

This is highly stigmatized.[10]

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:[11]

  • "President Bush graciously invited Michelle and I to meet with him ..."
  • "All debts are cleared between you and I".

Personal pronouns in modern English[edit]

Personal pronouns in standard Modern English
Person (gender) Subject Object Dependent Possessive Independent Possessive Reflexive
Singular
First I me my mine myself
Second you your yours yourself
Third Masculine he him his himself
Feminine she her hers herself
Neuter it its itself
Epicene they them their theirs themselves
Plural
First we us our ours ourselves
Second you your yours yourselves
Third they them their theirs themselves

Older versions[edit]

Old English pronouns
Nominative IPA Accusative Dative Genitive
1st Singular [ɪtʃ] mec / mē mīn
Dual wit [wɪt] uncit unc uncer
Plural [weː] ūsic ūs ūser / ūre
2nd Singular þū [θuː] þec / þē þē þīn
Dual ġit [jɪt] incit inc incer
Plural ġē [jeː] ēowic ēow ēower
3rd Singular Masculine [heː] hine him his
Neuter hit [hɪt] hit him his
Feminine hēo [heːo] hīe hiere hiere
Plural hīe [hiːə] hīe heom heora
Personal pronouns in Middle English
The Modern English is shown in italics below each Middle English pronoun
Person (gender) Subject Object Possessive determiner Possessive pronoun Reflexive
Singular
First
modern
ic / ich / I
I
me / mi
me
min / minen [pl.]
my
min / mire / minre
mine
min one / mi selven
myself
Second
modern (archaic)
þou / þu / tu / þeou
you (thou)
þe
you (thee)
þi / ti
your (thy)
þin / þyn
yours (thine)
þeself / þi selven
yourself (thyself)
Third Masculine
modern
he
he
him[a] / hine[b]
him
his / hisse / hes
his
his / hisse
his
him-seluen
himself
Feminine
modern
sche[o] / s[c]ho / ȝho
she
heo / his / hie / hies / hire
her
hio / heo / hire / heore
her
-
hers
heo-seolf
herself
Neuter
modern
hit
it
hit / him
it
his
its
his
its
hit sulue
itself
Plural
First
modern
we
we
us / ous
us
ure[n] / our[e] / ures / urne
our
oures
ours
us self / ous silve
ourselves
Second
modern (archaic)
ȝe / ye
you (ye)
eow / [ȝ]ou / ȝow / gu / you
you
eower / [ȝ]ower / gur / [e]our
your
youres
yours
Ȝou self / ou selve
yourselves
Third From Old English heo / he his / heo[m] heore / her - -
From Old Norse þa / þei / þeo / þo þem / þo þeir - þam-selue
modern they them their theirs themselves

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.

Personal pronouns in Early Modern English
Nominative Oblique Genitive Possessive
1st person singular I me my/mine[# 1] mine
plural we us our ours
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]
plural they them their theirs
  1. ^ a b 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).
  2. ^ a b 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.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ a b c d e 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.
  3. ^ a b Not part of a coordinative construction with and, for instance.
  4. ^ including the subject of a non-finite clause introduced by for, e.g. "For me to do that would be more than a crime."

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

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. 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. 

External links[edit]