When someone is trying to sound fancy or old-fashioned, what words do they choose to use? When imitating (or for some people, mocking) Shakespeare, what words do people choose to include? It is likely that today’s vocabulary words would be included in those examples. Today we’re going to change things up a bit and instead of focusing on one vocabulary word, we’re focusing on a set of words that are all related. Today’s vocab words are…
THOU, THEE, THY, THINE, THYSELF, YE
You might easily be able to see the connection between most of these words (except for one that tends to stand out), but really they all have one important similarity. YOU! Watch the video or keep reading below to dive into today’s vocabulary words.
The chart above shows the difference between all of these words. Basically “thou” and “thee: just translate directly to the pronoun “you” in modern-day. The difference between when to use “thou” and when to use “thee” depended on where they were located in the sentence. “Thou” was a subjective/nominative pronoun (like the word “I”). That means that it was used when the pronoun was being used as the subject of a sentence or clause. For example: Thou art (are) as beautiful as a rose. Since it’s the subject of the sentence, we would use “thou” instead of “thee”. The word “thee” was objective, meaning it was used as the object of a verb or preposition, which typically meant it came later in the sentence. For example: I bought a present for thee.
“Thy”, “thine”, and “thyself” translate directly to “your”, “yours”, and “yourself”. The difference between “thy” and “thyself” depended on whether or not the word was describing a word that came after it. “Thy” was used when there was a noun following it, and it was used to describe who owned it. For example: Make sure to bring thy pencil to class. The word “pencil” is being described by the word “thy”. (Whose pencil? Thy, or your, pencil.) “Thine” was used when the word being described was located elsewhere in the sentence. For example: The pencil is thine. It’s still describing pencil, but the word “pencil” doesn’t come right after it this time.
Lastly we have the word “ye”. It basically was a way to talk directly to a group of people (you all). Similar to “thou”, it was originally used as the subjective/nominative form of the pronoun. The objective form was actually the word “you”, so that word wasn’t just invented after all of this “thou” and “thee” business.
So why did we stop using “thou”?
Basically, language changes over time, and these words are no exception. “You” and “Your” started to be used to describe people of higher social standing (“your majesty”) or for social equals. Thou started to be used for people of lower social standing or just casually in a friendly/informal way. Eventually the more formal variation became the acceptable way to speak and the informal pronoun was dropped.
Also, fun fact, many Quakers believed using “you” was inappropriate. In 1660 a Quaker named George Fox wrote a whole 200 page book on the subject. (It was called “A Battle-Door for Teachers & Professors to Learn Singular & Plural; You to Many, and Thou to One: Singular One, Thou; Plural Many, You.”) Some people were even beaten or abused for using “you”.
This great article from Merriam-Webster explains the reasoning in a little more detail.
Original Sentence: If thine enemy wrong thee, buy each of his children a drum.
“Translated” Sentence: If your enemy wrongs you, buy each of his children a drum.
Sentence from the chapter: “Mind thy manners, thou young beggar” (p. 9)
But wait, there’s more!
Here are a few words/phrases where you can find this week’s vocab words:
- “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?”
- fare thee well
- (something), thy name is (someone or something) [For example: Jealousy, thy name is Jeremy]
- Religious texts/songs (including Christmas songs)
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