The word "thou" (pron-en|ðaʊ in most dialects) is a second person singular pronoun in English. It is now largely archaic, having been replaced in almost all contexts by "you". "Thou" is the nominative form; the oblique/objective form is "thee" (functioning as both accusative and dative), and the possessive is "thy" or "thine". Almost all verbs following "thou" have the endings "-st" or "-est"; e.g., "thou goest". In Middle English, "thou" was sometimes abbreviated by putting a small "u" over the letter .

Originally, "thou" was simply the singular counterpart to the plural pronoun "ye", derived from an ancient Indo-European root. Following a process found in other Indo-European languages, "thou" was later used to express intimacy, familiarity, or even disrespect while another pronoun, "you", the oblique/objective form of "ye", was used for formal circumstances (see T-V distinction). In the 17th century, "thou" fell into disuse in the standard language but persisted, sometimes in altered form, in regional dialects of England and Scotland. [Shorrocks, 433–438.] , as well as in the language of such religious groups as the Society of Friends. In standard modern English, "thou" continues to be used only in formal religious contexts, in literature that seeks to reproduce archaic language, and in certain fixed phrases such as "" and "". For this reason, many associate the pronoun with solemnity or formality, connotations at odds with the word's history. Many dialects have compensated for the lack of a singular/plural distinction caused by the disappearance of "thou" through the creation of new plural pronouns or pronominal constructions, such as "y'all", "yinz", "youse", "you lot", and "you guys". These vary regionally and are usually restricted to colloquial speech.


Because "thou" has passed out of common use, its traditional forms are often confused by those attempting to imitate older manners of speech.


The English personal pronouns have standardised declension according to the following table:


Verb forms used after "thou" generally end in "-st" or "-est" in the indicative mood in both the present and the past tenses. These forms are used for both strong and weak verbs:

Typical examples of the standard present and past tense forms follow. The "e" in the ending is optional; early English spelling had not yet been standardized. In verse, the choice about whether to use the "e" often depended upon considerations of meter.

*to know: "thou knowest", "thou knewest"
*to drive: "thou drivest", "thou drovest"
*to make: "thou makest", "thou madest"
*to love: "thou lovest", "thou lovedest"

A few verbs have irregular "thou" forms:
*to be: "thou art" (or "thou beest"), "thou wast" (or "thou wert"; originally "thou were")
*to have: "thou hast", "thou hadst"
*to do: "thou dost" IPA|/dʌst/ (or "thou doest", in non-auxiliary use) and "thou didst"
*shall: "thou shalt"
*will: "thou wilt"

In Old English, the second-person singular verb inflection was -es. This came down unchanged from Indo-European and can be seen in quite distantly related Indo-European languages: Russian знаешь, "znayesh", thou knowest; Latin "amas", thou lovest. (This is parallel to the history of the third-person form, in Old English -eþ, Russian, знает, "znayet", he knoweth, Latin "amat" he loveth.) The anomalous development from -es to modern English -est, which took place separately at around the same time in the closely related German and Frisian languages, is understood to be caused by an assimilation of the consonant of the pronoun, which often followed the verb. This is most readily observed in German: liebes du > liebstu > liebst du (thou lovest). The three languages belong to the West Germanic branch of the Indo-European languages, of which Frisian is the closest to English.


ee also

*English personal pronouns



*Baugh, Albert C., and Thomas Cable. "A History of the English Language", 5th ed. ISBN 0-13-015166-1
*Burrow, J. A., Turville-Petre, Thorlac. "A Book of Middle English". ISBN 0-631-19353-7
*Daniel, David. "The Bible in English: Its History and Influence." ISBN 0-300-09930-4.
*Shorrocks, Graham. "Case Assignment in Simple and Coordinate Constructions in Present-Day English." "American Speech", Vol. 67, No. 4 (Winter, 1992).
*Smith, Jeremy. "A Historical Study of English: Form, Function, and Change". ISBN 0-415-13272-X
*"Thou, "pers. pron., 2nd sing." Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. (1989). [] .
*Trudgill, Peter. (1999) Blackwell Publishing. "Dialects of England". ISBN 0-631-21815-7


*"Personal Pronouns in Present-Day English" by Katie Wales (Author) ISBN 0-521-47102-8

External links

* [ "A Grammar of the English Tongue"] by Samuel Johnson - includes description of 18th century use of "thou"
* [ Contemporary use of "thou" in Yorkshire]
* [ "Thou"] : The Maven's Word of the Day
* [ You/Thou in Shakespeare's Work] (archived forum discussion)
* [ "A Note on Shakespeare's Grammar"] by Seamus Cooney

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  • Thou — hou ([th]ou), pron. [Sing.: nom. {Thou}; poss. {Thy} ([th][imac]) or {Thine} ([th][imac]n); obj. {Thee} ([th][=e]). Pl.: nom. {You} (y[=oo]); poss. {Your} (y[=oo]r) or {Yours} (y[=oo]rz); obj. {You}.] [OE. thou, [thorn]u, AS. [eth][=u], [eth]u;… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • thou — hou ([th]ou), pron. [Sing.: nom. {Thou}; poss. {Thy} ([th][imac]) or {Thine} ([th][imac]n); obj. {Thee} ([th][=e]). Pl.: nom. {You} (y[=oo]); poss. {Your} (y[=oo]r) or {Yours} (y[=oo]rz); obj. {You}.] [OE. thou, [thorn]u, AS. [eth][=u], [eth]u;… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • thou — thou·let; xan·thou·ra; thou; thou·sand; thou·sand·fold; thou·sandth; thou·sand·fold·ly; …   English syllables

  • thou — 2nd nominative singular personal pronoun, O.E. þu, from P.Gmc. *thu (Cf. O.Fris. thu, M.Du., M.L.G. du, O.H.G., Ger. du, O.N. þu, Goth. þu), from PIE *tu , second person singular pronoun (Cf. L. tu, Ir. tu, Welsh ti, Gk. su, Lith …   Etymology dictionary

  • Thou — Thou, v. t. To address as thou, esp. to do so in order to treat with insolent familiarity or contempt. [1913 Webster] If thou thouest him some thrice, it shall not be amiss. Shak. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • thou — thou1 [thou] pron. pl. you or ye [ME < OE thu, akin to Ger du < IE * tu > L & Sans tu] Archaic personal pronoun in the second person singular: once used in familiar address, but now replaced by you except in poetic or religious use and… …   English World dictionary

  • Thou — Thou, v. i. To use the words thou and thee in discourse after the manner of the Friends. [R.] [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Thou — (Abkürzung für Thousands on an Inch) ist ein Längenmaß im angloamerikanischem Maßsystem und der englische Name für das amerikanische Längenmaß mil (von lat. millesimus). 1 Thou ist ein tausendstel Zoll, es entspricht also 25,4 µm. Das… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Thou — (spr. Tuh), 1) Jaques Auguste de T. (Thuanus), geb. 1553 in Paris; studirte die Rechte in Orleans u. Valence, begleitete 1573 Paul de Foix nach Italien u. machte dann eine Reise nach den Niederlanden u. Deutschland. Er wurde von König Heinrich… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Thou — (spr. tu), 1) Jacques Auguste de, latinisiert Thuanus, franz. Geschichtschreiber und Staatsmann, geb. 8. Okt. 1553 in Paris, wo sein Vater Christoph de T. erster Parlamentspräsident war, gest. 7. Mai 1617, ward von Heinrich III. mit mehreren… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Thou — (spr. tu), Jacques Auguste de, latinisiert Thuanus, franz. Staatsmann und Geschichtschreiber, geb. 8. Okt. 1553 zu Paris, unter Heinrich III. Requetenmeister, unter Heinrich IV. Vizepräsident des Parlaments, gest. 7. Mai 1617; berühmt seine… …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

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