Chapter 4: Demonstrative Pronouns

This is perhaps the most important chapter in this grammar book. Demonstrative pronouns are very often the sticking point for students of Anglo-Saxon. If you take some extra time with this chapter and make sure that you understand the concepts behind demonstrative pronouns, and if you make sure that you memorize and can recognize the paradigms, you will be well on your way to being able to translate Old English sentences fluently.

Demonstrative Pronouns are "pointing words": they indicate proximity relationships.

Alfred gave this jewel to the bishop and that one to his ealdorman.

"This" and "that" are demonstrative pronouns. They demonstrate (point out) nouns.

The words that translate as "a," "an," and "the" are considered to be demonstratives in Anglo-Saxon (we call them articles in Modern English). Why? Because in Old English "se" ("the") can stand by itself and doesn't need a noun to follow it; therefore it gains pronoun status.

For example: "Who did it?" ==> "The man did it" is perfectly acceptable in Modern English.
In Old English, however, you can leave out man: "Who did it?" ==> "Se did it." This sentence could be translated as "The did it," but because "se" indicates the masculine gender, we can translate it as "the masculine one did it" or "he did it."

Sometimes in Old English a demonstrative will be followed by a noun, and you can translate it as "the" or "that" or "a." But other times you will need to supply a noun "the one," "that one."

Remember that demonstrative prounous are providing you with useful information about the case of a word, and thus telling you if the demonstrative and the word it is describing (if it is describing a word) is a subject, object or possessive.

Note: Demonstrative Pronouns have five (rather than four) case forms. The instrumental is here actually different from the dative.


Demonstrative Pronouns Paradigms

Singular Demonstrative Pronouns: "The" or "That"

Case Masculine Neuter Feminine
Nominative Case se þæt seo
Genitive Case þæs þæs þære
Accusative Case þone þæt þa
Dative Case þæm or þam þæm or þam þa
Instrumental Case þy or þe or þon þy or þe or þon þære


Plural Demonstrative Pronouns: "The" or "That"

Case All Genders
Nominative þa
Genitive þara or þæra
Accusative þa
Dative and Instrumental þæm or þam


Singular Demonstrative Pronouns: "This"

Case Masculine Neuter Feminine
Nominative þes þis þeos
Genitive þises or þisses þises or þisses þisse or þeosse
Accusative þisne þis þas
Dative þisum or þissum þisum or þissum þisse or þeosse
Instrumental þys or þis þys or þis þisse or þeosse


Plural Demonstrative Pronouns: "These"

Case All Genders
Nominative þas
Genitive þissa or þeossa
Accusative þas
Dative and Instrumental þisum or þissum or þeosum or þeossum