Talk:English personal pronouns

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"you guys"? Really? Which dialect is this? --jpgordon∇∆∇∆ 03:49, 19 August 2006 (UTC)

They say it in Iowa Maestro tomas 19:22, 16 September 2006 (UTC)
Throughout the Midwestern U.S., really. Ruakh 13:18, 17 September 2006 (UTC)
Yes, the Midwest. I, an Ohioan, use it regularly. ChaosMaster 23:57, 23 March 2007 (UTC)
I have even heard it, oddly, in Maryland, in the case of a woman talking to a group of other women. And there's nothing exclusive about Maryland in this. One lady whom I heard say this was a wife of a U.S. Naval officer who had lived many places in the course of his duties.Dale101usa (talk) 18:09, 9 March 2009 (UTC)

More material to add[edit]

The following table and text were originally in the article on pronouns. I think they're more appropriate for this page, since they deal specifically with English, but it needs to be combined with the table that already exists. FilipeS 13:33, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

The English personal pronouns including nonstandard ones and related pronouns and determiners are shown below. Reflexive pronouns are used as the object of a sentence when the subject and object match. Possessive pronouns are used to show ownership. The possessive determiners are more commonly treated as the genitive pronouns, but that analysis doesn't reflect real usage, since his, her, etc. don't substitute for a noun or noun phrase.

personal pronoun possessive
nominative accusative reflexive
first-person singular I me myself mine my
plural we us ourselves
ourself 1
ours our
second-person singular standard you you yourself yours your
archaic thou 2 thee thyself thine thy
plural standard you you yourselves 3 yours your
archaic ye 4 you yourselves yours your
nonstandard you guys
you all
youse guys
you guys
you all
youse guys
y'all's selves
third-person singular masculine he him himself his his
feminine she her herself hers her
neuter it it itself its its
plural they 5 them themselves theirs their
  1. Ourself is used when we is actually singular as in the royal we, the editorial we, and the nurse's we, e.g. "We seem a bit displeased with ourself, don't we?"
  2. Sometime between 1600 and 1800, the various forms of thou began to pass out of common usage in most places, except in poetry, archaic-style literature, and descriptions of other languages' pronouns. Thou refers to one person who is familiar, though as in other European languages, it is also used of God. Thou still exists in northern England and Scotland, and in some Christian religious communities. See also thou.
  3. The only common distinction between singular and plural you is in the reflexive and the emphatic forms.
  4. In Scotland, yous is often used for the second person plural (particularly in the Central Belt area). However, in some parts of the country, ye is used for the plural you. In older times and in some other places today, ye is the nominative case and you is the accusative case. Some English dialects generalised ye, while standard English generalised you. Some dialects use ye as a clipped or clitic form of you.
  5. Although using singular they when sex is not known or is not important is often condemned by traditionalists, it is often found in informal speech. In fact, it is a revival of an earlier usage and may one day become standard usage because it is so common; it also avoids awkward constructions like "he or she". This usage is authorised and preferred by the Australian Government Manual of Style for official usage in government documents.

English regional dialects sometimes use variant pronouns.

I think that this table would be an excellent addition to the page. If it is added or replaces the existing one, consider putting the archaic forms in italics.--A12n 16:36, 2 December 2006 (UTC)
Reflexive pronouns are also used for emphasis, and it was a serious omission to neglect to write anything abut this.
For example, Lee Harvey Oswald could have said, "I, myself, shot President Kennedy." But at the time, he wasn't in the mood for making any confessions, and he was murdered himself before he could say this.Dale101usa (talk) 18:15, 9 March 2009 (UTC)

Singular "they"[edit]

I note the above comment re singular they. I would like to see the main article amended to reflect this but do not consider myself competent to edit this article. (Not that that has always held me back before elsewhere at WP!) Paul Beardsell 01:32, 8 January 2007 (UTC)

Done. :-) FilipeS 22:24, 20 January 2007 (UTC)


I know it's out of current usage (but so are thou and thee), but why is there no mention of the gender neutral 3rd person pronoun "one"?

eg "One should aim to eat five portions of fruit and vegetable's per day." or "Buying a house is often the greatest financial commitment in one's life."

There's also the related pronoun, "oneself" - and I wouldn't be surprised if there are more.

I don't feel competent to accurately add "one" and "oneself" to this article. Maybe someone with more knowledge of the subject can do it?

-- 12:29, 9 March 2007 (UTC)

I am also not well qualified to analyze English usage, but it seems that pronoun "one" is relatively more legitimate in this article (and the useful table in it) than the archaic pronouns like "thee".
My brief Web search indicates that American usage of "one" is considered quite formal, and there is some advice to avoid it. However, I did not see any claim that it is archaic or nonstandard.
In addition, as mentioned in the separate article on "One_(pronoun)", there is a reputation as (overly) formal that may have been counteracted in more recent twenty or so years as a valuable tool to more easily write Gender-neutral_language_in_English. Using pronoun "one" can help avoid writing awkward sentences or passive voice or using confusing gender switches in the third person.
Like the previous Talk poster, if I had more confidence I would have edited the article myself.
Vectorizer 14:11, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
"One" has a more restricted use than "he", "she", or "it", though, doesn't it? It's not just "gender-neutral", it's also generic. You can't speak that way of a specific person. FilipeS 15:15, 28 April 2007 (UTC)
I think that one should be added to this article and unless there are any serious objections I will do so. --Vince (talk) 09:21, 26 August 2008 (UTC)

Merge proposal[edit]

Regarding the proposal to merge Modern English personal pronouns into this article: Support.RuakhTALK 05:43, 29 April 2007 (UTC)

I Support the proposed merger.—Jorge Padrón 17:14, 21 June 2007 (UTC)

Done. FilipeS 16:49, 23 July 2007 (UTC)


Labeling the objective forms of personal pronouns as purely accusative seems odd to me. After all, in English, there is no distinction between the direct and indirect object other than placement in a sentence. The same pronouns are used whether they are in the accusative case or the dative case:

He met me. [Accusative]

He gave me the mail. [Dative]

I think the "Accusative" column should be re-labeled to either "Accusative/Dative" or (more correctly, IMHO) "Objective." Jorge Padrón 17:12, 21 June 2007 (UTC)

Or "oblique". In my opinion, either term is suitable, as English makes no distinction between accusative and dative. FilipeS 21:31, 16 July 2007 (UTC)
"Oblique" already has a technical meaning in geometry and engineering, and it should be avoided otherwise. I agree that in English, the former Latin cases (and other old languages) of {dative, accusative, ablative} have been merged into the "objective" case, and that it should be referred to as that. In some other languages, such as German, they still have nominative, dative, and accusative cases.Dale101usa (talk) 18:24, 9 March 2009 (UTC)
"Oblique" is a correct linguistic term (see ), regardless of how the word is also used in geometry or engineering. I'm pretty sure readers reading an article about pronouns in English would have no problem detecting the linguistic context over that of engineering, just as the word "acute" isn't avoided in a medical article lest it cause the reader to think the article was speaking of angles. As a search for "objective case" redirects to "oblique case" in Wikipedia, perhaps the header "objective" should be changed to "oblique". (talk) 20:47, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

Third person plural versus corporate[edit]

Is there a discussion somewhere of "their" versus "its" in reference to corporations and other named groups? Does one say "Acme's press release explained their decision" or "...explained its decision"? I'm mystified as to proper practice in modern English. My suspicion is that there is local variation.LeadSongDog (talk) 16:02, 25 August 2008 (UTC)

The Wikipedia article Singular they has some bearing on this:
"Irrespective of the debate, when used, "singular" they can be seen to have an implication of indefinite reference (indefinite number or indefinite gender). It is most commonly used with indefinite referents of a distributive nature such as someone, anyone, everyone, and no one. Such references are not to one particular person but to a large group taken one at a time, causing influence from the implied plural. This is also evident in the case of some singular collective nouns, as in "The police are on their way." This phenomenon is somewhat less extensive in North American than in British and similar varieties of English, in which one might also hear "Chelsea have defeated Liverpool" or "The Government are of the view that...." or "The audience were laughing." Use of singular or plural forms in such cases is a matter of style not syntax, with regional variation in frequency."

This is in the section headed "Examples of generic they". Dieter Simon (talk) 23:27, 25 August 2008 (UTC)

There are probably quite a number of websites which will strive to explain this point. One is: [1]. One of whose sections explains:
When a collective noun (such as "team," "group," or "chorus") applies to the group as a whole, use a singular pronoun to refer to that noun. When a collective pronoun refers to members acting individually, choose a plural pronoun.
You will be able to choose from quite a selection of Web sites by entering in Google or Yahoo: "Collective pronoun" (without the quotes). Dieter Simon (talk) 00:05, 26 August 2008 (UTC)
Ever since the time of Noah Webster, or before, American English has used collective nouns that are grammatically singular. E.G. "The team is"; "The Government is." It is also true that British-style English (see also Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc.) continues to use nouns in an archaic way: ignoring the concept of the collective noun. Hence, we have "The United States is"; "The U.S. Air Force is"; but as is seen in their odd form, I have read "The Royal Air Force are." Correct is "The audience was laughing." In Canada, the American forms are generally followed, rather than the British one. However, if you read the documents of the Wikipedia carefully, it is an AMERICAN encyclopedia. (Just try adding a picture to it.) You will be informed that the Wikipedia is maintained on Internet servers in the United States of America; and that it is a non-profit corporation organized under the laws of the United States of America; and that the copyright laws of the United States of America are the ones that govern it. Notice also such other collective forms that are used in the United States: "General Motors is ...", "General Electric is ...", "Boeing is".
I am not sure, but the archaic British are probably still saying "British Aerospace are ...", "Rolls Royce are ...", and maybe even "The United Kingdom are ..."Dale101usa (talk) 18:46, 9 March 2009 (UTC)
Someone above also presented a false example. In fact, in English, the word "police" is its own singular and plural, and it is merely customary to preceed this word with the article "the". When the singular nature of this word is to be emphasized, we use words & phrases like "police force", "policeman", "policewoman", "law enforcement", all of which are singular.Dale101usa (talk) 18:46, 9 March 2009 (UTC)
Such discussions about singular and plural always remind me of an old joke about hillbillies where the punch line is "Pie are round, but cornbread are square." Do you know the one? Use the word "is".Dale101usa (talk) 18:49, 9 March 2009 (UTC)
Hi Dale101usa,
Citing your opinions as presented above:
..."However, if you read the documents of the Wikipedia carefully, it is an AMERICAN encyclopedia."...
..."You will be informed that the Wikipedia is maintained on Internet servers in the United States of America; and that it is a non-profit corporation organized under the laws of the United States of America; and that the copyright laws of the United States of America are the ones that govern it."...
So what is it you are advocating, that all articles should be changed to American versions of English? That Hundred Years' War, Croydon, Air-raid shelter, for example should be (re)-written in American spelling? I don't think so! See the section below from the main article

Citing the section entitled "Retaining the existing variety"
"If an article has evolved using predominantly one variety, the whole article should conform to that variety, unless there are reasons for changing it based on strong national ties to the topic. In the early stages of writing an article, the variety chosen by the first major contributor to the article should be used, unless there is reason to change it based on strong national ties to the topic. Where an article that is not a stub shows no signs of which variety it is written in, the first person to make an edit that disambiguates the variety is equivalent to the first major contributor."
Surely if an article has been started by a British writer - unless the subject is an American one - to transcribe it in American English would be most uncivil, and of course vice versa. It would be beneficial if more people read the above guidelines. Dieter Simon (talk) 01:40, 10 March 2009 (UTC) Dieter Simon (talk)


Shouldn't there be a section in the table for the who/whom/whose pronouns?

Charlie pearce (talk) 15:43, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Added one, and a few sentences in a section that can be expanded by someone with more to say. ;) (talk) 02:49, 22 January 2012 (UTC) Lynniam

Though the term personal is sometimes used when describing the difference between who and which, personal pronouns are usually distinguished from relative and interrogative pronouns, so who etc. don't really belong here - except, perhaps, in the form of a link ("see also"). --Boson (talk) 18:56, 22 January 2012 (UTC)
Okay, I read up on pronouns a bit more and I see your point. At the same time, since this page deals so much with case and they are the only other example of non-genitive case in modern English (to my knowledge), I think the article should at least mention them, with, as you say, a link. I added a new sentence to clarify. Do you want me to take the row I added yesterday off the table, or would there be some way to modify it to make clear it is an extra? I hesitate only because I have not seen a similar table anywhere else which would be more comprehensive. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Lynn Ami (talkcontribs) 00:05, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
I agree, it is a handy place to include it, so I have added a table footnote.--Boson (talk) 13:43, 23 January 2012 (UTC)


Is themself a word? I don't think it is. "Them" is plural and "self" is singular, so I don't think that it should be mentioned in the box thingy. But correct me if I'm wrong. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:28, 13 December 2009 (UTC)

Ask Oxford [1] state that "themself" is the third person singular used informally instead of herself or himself to refer to a person of unspecified sex, that that usage was first recorded in the 14th century and has re-emerged to correspond to the singular gender-neutral use of they, and that it is "not accepted as good English, however". Dieter Simon (talk) 01:43, 14 December 2009 (UTC)

Oxford is a TERRIBLE SOURCE. They add non-words to their dictionary for an annual publicity stunt. If started using blofpaps to mean "first person reflexive" they'd make an entry saying how awesome that is. Fuck descriptivists. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 26 August 2011

If you don't like Oxford, the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language has "Singlar they has two reflexive forms, themselves and themself", though here, too, it is indicated that the latter is not grammatical in all dialects. If you are looking for a more prescriptivist take, Garner notes that themself is used in Canadian legislation but indicates that "many readers and writers - especially Americans - bristle at the sight or sound of it". I presume you are American. --Boson (talk) 21:59, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

Informal/nonstandard second-person plural pronouns[edit]

Does anyone understand why the "subjective" and "objective" columns here are not the same? Some just seem wrong (for example, "you gals" is in the objective column but not the subjective, and yet "you guys" is in both). However, some others I'm not sure about because I'm not familiar with their use. It just seems weird to me that the objective column has more entries. If someone was just slapping in every variation they could think of without bothering too much about the difference between subjective and objective cases then I'd expect them to be stuffed in the subjective column. Therefore, I'm wondering if there is some point here that I'm missing.

On another note, does anyone else feel that this long list of utterances -- "you guys", "youse guys", "you gals", "youse gals" etc., in infinite variation -- unduly dominates the table? (talk) 02:02, 14 January 2010 (UTC).

Since no one has commented on this in a long time, I have relegated some of these to a footnote. (talk) 01:26, 18 September 2010 (UTC).

"Full" table[edit]

Is there really any need to retain the "full" table? I don't find it helpful - it certainly isn't a complete set of archaic and non-standard English personal pronouns, and seems to include a few that aren't personal pronouns anyway, and in any case requires annotation to make any sense of it. I can't imagine the table being of any use to someone looking anything up (we already have a complete systematic table for the everyday modern pronouns, and if you want to know about the various other kinds you have to read the text anyway). What do others think? Victor Yus (talk) 18:45, 31 August 2012 (UTC)

I personally think the larger table is helpful. There is really no good way to convert all of the information that is in that table to straight text. Rreagan007 (talk) 20:38, 31 August 2012 (UTC)
I don't think the table is useful. It won't be correct for anybody speaking any version of English (e.g. nobody every had both "thou" and "youse" as words as part of their dialect). It makes the article more complicated having two tables because the reader will find it harder to know which one to look at. Count Truthstein (talk) 22:02, 31 August 2012 (UTC)
"Thou" and "youse" aren't really part of my everyday English dialect, but I have heard those words used before. I think it's nice being able to see graphically how those more obscure English pronouns fit into the overall structure of the English personal pronoun structure. If I were just reading about those words in the text of the article, I don't think I would be able to have as good of an understanding of it. Rreagan007 (talk) 23:12, 31 August 2012 (UTC)
The problem is I think that they don't fit into some "overall structure", but fit into various different structures (archaic, dialect(s), informal), all mixed up in one table, and none of them presented completely anyway. Also it drifts off topic, including who and one, which I don't believe are normally classed as personal pronouns (or if they are, they are perfectly standard and ought to be in the main table), and getting into the question of different usages like generic you (but again, not dealing with that question in complete fashion). Victor Yus (talk) 07:45, 1 September 2012 (UTC)
I agree that information provided in tables and in diagrams generally can be easier to understand than prose. Two comments: (1) The two tables are laid out differently - it would simplify the article to use a common layout. (2) Variations could be presented as variations on the table in particular. For example, to introduce a pronoun like "youse", it could be said to occur in "second person, plural, subject and object". The reader should be able to easily look up those indices in the table to see where it could occur. The "thou" pronouns could be presented as a table, which is easily seen to be a replacement for part of the standard table. Count Truthstein (talk) 07:55, 1 September 2012 (UTC)

Pronouns turning optional in informal interactions online[edit]

I've noticed that people may omit the pronoun and start with a verb or conjunction like "because" (cause). For example: Someone may reply "Didn't see anything" to a question asking if anyone saw anything. Another example is an answer like "Using the computer" to a question asking what the person is doing. Is this like the optional pronouns for Spanish, or something like the omission of pronouns in pro-drop languages? It seems that this type of online informal English use is slowly resulting in the pronouns becoming optional for questions or previous comments that establish the context for the reply. If there are any sources that address this, this phenomenon should be addressed in the article. - M0rphzone (talk) 08:37, 28 September 2012 (UTC)

Singular "they" again[edit]

Returning to earlier comments, I think it's very much time for the presence of singular "they" to be upgraded, now that its mainstream credentials have considerably increased since the section was written. It's being endorsed as standard English by a number of mainstream authorities such as Merriam-Webster [2], Oxford Dictionaries [3], and Pullum & Huddleston's The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language [4] (see the comment in the same authors' A Student's Introduction to English Grammar, page 105 [5] - which is to the effect that it's perfectly standard, but has been falsely airbrushed out by prescriptive grammar sources). On this basis I think it ought to be in "Table of basic personal pronouns".

I know this is a real can of worms, and circumstances stop me spending any time working on what would be an undoubtedly disputed change. But it's time to consider it. Gordonofcartoon (talk) 18:04, 28 December 2012 (UTC)

I would agree that the simple label "non-standard" is incorrect (so they should be removed completely from the second table), though I would accept a note explaining that some uses of "singular they" may be regarded as non-standard (preferably with examples, if we can find sources that explicitly qualify them as non-standard). I would suggest that "singular they" should be added to the note on "one" following the table of standard usage, perhaps changing the heading of that table to "Principle uses of personal pronouns in standard Modern English". Since "singular they" is treated morphosyntactically as plural, I'm not sure I would not actually add "they" to the list of singular third-person pronouns. The section on "singular they" should probably be enlarged and changed to properly summarize the article Singular they. The article on "singular they" could also do with a major rewrite to provide more coherence. I don't think it is appropriate to simply label epicene usage as non-standard. There may be a difference in acceptability or register for different uses, as I mentioned here. Though there always seems to be a level of indeterminateness, singular they is occasionally used to refer back to an indeterminate noun like "person" even when "person" itself refers to a specific known person of known sex. I don't think this usage is generally considered standard, but it might be used - even in formal prose - for special effect (for instance to emphasize an element of indeterminateness or deliberately refrain from explicitly indicating the sex of the person) so I'm not sure if the differentiation between standard and non-standard use is the most relevant difference. I am loth to qualify as non-standard (which might be read as sub-standard) any usage which is more carefully differentiated than average formal prose. --Boson (talk) 20:42, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
I agree that singular they should just be listed as standard English. It's used in Shakespeare, the King James Bible, etc. and is the most commonly used singular 3rd person pronoun for indeterminate antecedents. English Wiktionary lists it as a "traditional" third-person singular pronoun along with he, she, and it.[6] I do think it would be helpful, however, if we added a note about it's usage to clarify that some sources have argued against using it, especially in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Kaldari (talk) 00:18, 23 March 2016 (UTC)
I went ahead and updated the article and corresponding template per the discussion here. Kaldari (talk) 02:27, 23 March 2016 (UTC)

Whomself / Whoself[edit]

I've been unable to find any evidence that these are real words. A quick Google search turned up two instances: this page, and a thread on, discussing whether it is a word (apparently with consensus in the negative). Marking it cite needed for the present. Can a more knowledgeable linguist remove these references or provide more information? Phildonnia (talk) 15:46, 26 April 2016 (UTC)

In "Personal pronouns in standard Modern English" table, change "theirself" to "themself"[edit]

"themself" is standard epicene as the article states further down; this is probably a typo. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2620:0:100e:208:508b:8f0d:3a37:505 (talk) 00:59, 28 September 2017 (UTC)

The detailled table gives the standard reflexive as themselves (singular they is morphosyntactically plural) and gives themself as non-standard (italic); so I have altered the invoked template for the basic standard forms to show themselves. --Boson (talk) 11:08, 28 September 2017 (UTC)