Chapter 1: Personal Pronouns

Now that we've reviewed basic grammatical concepts we can finally get to translating actual Old English sentences.

We'll begin with personal pronouns. Since we can find many simple sentences that use them, and since they are so common, it makes sense to memorize them right away.

Personal pronouns stand in for nouns. In Modern English the personal pronouns include: "I," "you," "he," "she," "it," "we," "they," "them," "us," "him," "her," "his," "hers," "its," "theirs," "our," "your."

Personal pronouns are used in statements and commands, but not in questions; interrogative pronouns (like "who," "whom," "what") are used there.

Like Modern English, Old English has both singular and plural forms for the personal pronouns. But Old English also has a dual form, used to indicate two closely associated persons -- two people working or fighting together, husband and wife, or lovers.

There are three persons for pronouns in Old English (first person = speaker; second person = person being addressed; third person = third party being spoken about) , and the third person has masculine, neuter, and feminine forms.

The case of pronouns indicates how they function in a sentence. Nominatives are subjects, genitives are possessive modifiers, accusatives are direct objects, and datives are objects of prepositions and indirect objects.


Paradigms: A paradigm is simply a list of all the possible grammatical forms of a word. It is usually arranged in a table, so that you can easily look up the forms that you need to translate. It is essential that you memorize your Old English paradigms so that you do not have to spend extra time flipping through your grammar book but can instead focus on translating.
Study tip: You can either memorize the paradigm visually, by creating a blank paradigm and filling in the boxes with the words you've memorized (this is the method that most students use for Old English), or, if you are a more aural learner, you can recite the paradigm so that you can memorize it. The most successful students often combine both of these methods.


First Person Personal Pronouns Paradigm

Case Singular Dual Plural
Nominative ic = I wit = we two we = we
Genitive min = mine uncer = of us two (of ours) user or ure = of us (our)
Accusative mec or me = me (direct object) uncit or unc = us two (direct object) usic or us = us (direct object)

Dative /


me = with me (or indirect object)

unc = with us two (or indirect object)

us = with us (or indirect object)

Second Person Personal Pronouns Paradigm

Case Singular Dual Plural
Nominative þu = you (singular) git = you two ge = you (plural = "y'all" or "younz")
Genitive þin = your (singular) incer = of your two (yours) eower = your (plural = "y'all's" or "younz's")
Accusative þec or þe = you (direct object) incit or inc = you two (direct object) eowic or eow = you (direct object)
Dative or Instrumental

þe = with you (or indirect object)

inc = with you two (or indirect object)

eow = with you (or indirect object)

Third Person Personal Pronouns Paradigm

Case Masculine Neuter Feminine All Genders Plural
Nominative he = he hit = it heo or hie = she heo or hie = they
Genitive his = his his = its hire = hers hira = theirs
Accusative hine = him (direct object) hit = it (direct object) heo or hie = her (direct object) heo or hie = them (direct object)
Dative or Instrumental him = with him ( or indirect object) him = with it (or indirect object) hire = with her (indirect object) him or heom = with them (or indirect object)

Note:The genitive pronouns can be used adjectivally, in which case they are declined the same way an adjective is. We will return to this point in Chapter 1

Interrogative Pronouns

Interrogative Pronouns are "question words": who and what.

Who was the most important king of the West Saxons in the ninth century?

"Who" is an interrogative pronoun standing in for "he" (which would be used if the sentence were a statement) which would stand in for the answer to the question, "Alfred".

Interrogative Pronouns have five (rather than four) case forms. The Instrumental case is here different from the Dative.

There are masculine and neuter forms. Masculine interrogative pronouns are used for both masculine and feminine nouns.

Interrogative Pronouns Paradigm

Case Masculine Neuter
Nominative hwa = who hwæt = what
Genitive hwæs = of who hwæs = of what
Accusative hwone = whom (direct object) hwæt = what (direct object)
Dative hwæm or hwam = with whom (indirect object) hwæm or hwam = with what (indirect object)
Instrumental hwi or hwon = by means of whom hwi or hwon = by mean of what


Chapter 1 Vocabulary Words

Some exercises to practice recognizing Personal Pronouns