This page is for those who wish to use the original second-person singular pronoun, thou, in their Anglish. Often, in speech that tries to sound archaic, thou and its related forms are incorrectly used, so this is meant to be used as a guide.
This is the original declension for the second-person pronouns.
|Nominative||Accusative||Dependent genitive||Independent genitive|
- Nominative - used where I would be used, e.g., Thou art right.
- Accusative - used where me would be used, e.g., I saw thee.
- Dependent genitive - used where my would be used, e.g., Thy knowledge is impressive.
- Independent genitive - used where mine would be used, e.g., This book is thine.
In archaic speech, one may see thine used as a dependent genitive before vowels, e.g., thy book and thine eye. In other words, thy and thine can be found following the same distinction as a and an. The same distinction was found in my and mine, e.g., my life, mine ax.
Strictly speaking, a formally distinct reflexive pronoun is not needed, since it is generally clear when both the subject and the object refer to the addressee. That said, thyself later appeared and so is used where myself would be used, e.g., thou lovest thyself. The plural reflexive form is, of course, yourselves.
Though ye was originally nominative, and you accusative, later Early New English writers such as Shakespeare generally used you for both cases, as it had overthrown ye by 1600; ye was afterwards used as an uncommon alternative to you, even in the accusative. The King James Version, on the other hand, was more conservative and generally kept the two forms functionally distinct.
The second-person singular has -est as its characteristic verbal suffix, i.e., the verb is inflected to agree with thou if it is the subject. For example:
- Thou art wonderful.
- I have money, but thou hast nothing.
- Thou knowest everything.
The way to inflect the verb is onefold:
- For the present tense, attach -est to the infinitive, e.g., love, lovest, call, callest.
- For the past tense,
- If the verb is regular, then attach -edst to the infinitive, e.g., quell, quelledst, open, openedst.
- If the verb is irregular, and the past tense is not the same as the infinitive in form, then attach -est to the usual past tense, e.g., see, sawest, go, wentest.
- If the verb is irregular, but the past tense is the same as the infinitive in form, then attach -edst to the infinitive, e.g., hit, hittedst, let, lettedst.
- In Early New English, -est was commonly shortened to -st, and so we often find lovest and camest said as one syllable. The ending must, of course, be pronounced -est after sibilants (e.g., kissest, teachest, washest).
- The -edst ending is pronounced separately, so lovedst, showedst, and feignedst are each two syllables long, and the e in -edst is pronounced.
There are special forms for certain verbs:
|Present tense||Past tense|
- Art (from OE eart) is the usual inflection for be. The form beest (from OE bist and akin to German bist), though etymologically an indicative, is mainly used as a subjunctive variant in standard Early New English (see Subjunctive below). It may still be found in some modern English dialects as indicative bist.
- Wert is an alternative to wast for the past indicative; both inflections are relatively modern formations, and when thou disappeared from general use, which form ought to be used had not become fixed. See Subjunctive below for more.
- Dost is said as /dəst/; it (as well as doth) has the same vowel as is in does.
- Modern editions of the King James Bible make a distinction between dost and doest (pronounced /duəst/); basically, the former is used as an auxiliary only, whereas the latter is used as a main verb, e.g., thou dost not love me, thou doest thy work well. Since our current speech makes no such distinction for the inflected form does, however, one has no need to follow it, and dost can be used for both cases.
- For the verbs say and lay, the King James Bible uses saidst (said as /sɛdst/) and layedst (said as /leɪɪdst/) for the past tense. The past tense of pay, if the King James Bible used it, would presumably be payedst, as laid and paid are simply irregular spellings for regular past tense formations.
- For say, the present tense is generally written as sayest and may even be pronounced so, but according to the 17th century playwright Ben Jonson, the shortened form is said as sest (it is like how says is said as /sɛz/). The more consistent spelling would be saist, which matches the old third-person singular saith (said as /sɛθ/).
- Couldst, mayst, mightst, oughtst, shouldst, and wouldst are sometimes found with an e in the ending (i.e., we get forms such as wouldest and couldest).
The imperative mood is used for commands.
- Eat this cake!
- Get the saw!
For both singular and plural, no ending is attached to the verb. In older English, if the subject is ever expressed, it is put after the verb.
- Go thou to the church!
- Leave ye this place!
The subjunctive mood is the trickiest mood, as it has lost most of its formal distinctiveness over time, and even in Shakespeare's time, in which the subjunctive enjoyed greater use than it does now, the subjunctive mood's forms already showed signs of being replaced by the indicative mood's. See here for more information about the subjunctive.
Generally, for the present subjunctive, no ending is added for both the singular and the plural.
- It is important that thou finish thy work.
- Judge not, lest ye be judged.
For the modal verbs (e.g., can, may), however, the regular inflection is used.
- Thy father's moral parts / Mayst thou inherit too! (Shakespeare, All's Well That Ends Well)
For the verb be, beest is sometimes used as a subjunctive variant in Early New English.
- If thou beest a man, show thyself in thy likeness. (Shakespeare, The Tempest)
- But: If thou be merciful, / Open the tomb, lay me with Juliet. (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)
For the past subjunctive, originally, no ending was added, but by Shakespeare's time, the past subjunctive forms had become the same as the past indicative ones.
- If thou hadst not been born the worst of men, / Thou hadst been a knave and flatterer. (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)
For the verb be, there is a special subjunctive form wert.
- If thou wert wise, I would think highly of thee.
However, wert is sometimes found in the indicative instead of wast. In Shakespeare, wert is sometimes used in the indicative, but is oftener in the subjunctive, whereas wast is always indicative. The King James Bible cleanly separates wast and wert by having the former be indicative, and the latter be subjunctive only.
- Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. (Ezekiel 28:15).
- I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. (Revelation 3:15)
In short, the forms to use are:
Inflections for be.
Inflections for call.
Inflections for sink.
Inflections for may.
In Middle English and Early New English, the second-person pronouns often followed the T-V distinction, i.e., the plural was used as a "formal" singular, whereas the original singular was kept as an "informal" singular. For example, a servant would address his lord by ye (later you), but his lord in return would use thou in return. This description is simplistic, however; for example, two noblemen speaking to each other may use the plural forms for politeness' sake.
This distinction was not in Old English and started only in Middle English from French influence. The T-V distinction was still in Shakespeare's time, but the King James Bible does not follow this distinction at all, consistently using thou for the singular and ye for the plural.
Since the T-V distinction was due to French influence, its use is not recommended at all.
The following contractions can be used:
- Thou'rt - thou art
- Thou'st - thou hast
- Thou'lt - thou wilt
- Thou'dst - thou hadst, thou wouldst
Dialectally, one can also use thou'st to mean thou bist.
Negative contractions using -n't were not present in the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, or at least were not used in writing; they only became frequent around the mid 17th century. Thus, we do not find forms such as artn't and hastn't, but presumably, if thou had survived, these forms would now be used.
In vocatives, on the few occasions when the vocative noun is modified by a relative clause, it is treated as second person.
- Our Father, which art in heaven, / Hallowed be thy name. (Matthew 6:9)
Moreover, the vocative uses the pronoun's nominative form.
- Thou liest, thou jesting monkey, thou. (Shakespeare, The Tempest)