Most English person pronouns have an objective case — I/me, we/us, thou/thee, he/him, she/her, they/them, who/whom. But "you" and "it" have no such form. Did they every have one? is there any reason for this?

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    you was the object pronoun. It swallowed up the subject, as well as the singular forms. I'm not sure about it. But further questions about older English pronouns should be asked at English Language & Usage.
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 8, 2021 at 3:32
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    As @curiousdannii says, since we’re including older pronouns, it’s actually ye/you, with you being the object form. But it is neuter, and you’ll have to look fairly hard to find neuter words of any kind (pronoun, noun or adjective) that have different nominative/subject and accusative/object forms in any Indo-European language. Identical nominative and accusative forms is in fact one of the things that characterises neuter words all the way back to reconstructed Proto-Indo-European. Nov 8, 2021 at 8:24
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    @JanusBahsJacquet - Not too hard, the Slavic languages do have that distinction: Russian животное (životnoe) ‘animal’ is neuter, Acc. is животного (životnogo) = Gen., a usual thing with animate nouns. But also ‘it’: Nom. оно/ono, Acc. is Russ. его (jego), Pol. je, Cro.-Serb. njega, ga, Cz. ho, je. Note that in OCS there was no such distinction, Nom.=Acc. was for all the neuter and masculine singular nouns (except for stems ending in a consonant) and for the 3 p. personal and demonstrative pronouns, that distinction in the modern Slavic languages is surely an innovation.
    – Yellow Sky
    Nov 8, 2021 at 11:28
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    @YellowSky. That is a valid point. In Russian the classic system of gender is partially reinterpreted as an animate/inanimate contrast. If I am not mistaken, this happened quite recently in the history of Russian.
    – fdb
    Nov 8, 2021 at 11:53
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    @fdb Unfortunately, Yellow Sky has given misleading information. Animate neuter nouns in Present-Day Standard Russian (as spoken by educated Russians living in Russia) have different forms in the nom. and acc. plural only; in the singular the nom. and acc. sg. these forms are identical. That is why acc. sg. is "вижу/изучаю/люблю животное" but in the plural it is "вижу/изучаю/люблю животных". I even checked the "bible on the Russian declension paradigms" (i.e. Zalizniak) and he says the same thing. The acc. sg. "животного" (насекомого etc.) sounds plainly wrong.
    – Alex B.
    Nov 8, 2021 at 13:52

3 Answers 3


it is not too surprising, but the collapse of thou/thee and ye/you into you is notable and rare among the languages of the wider Western world at least.


Fairly suddenly in the 17th century, thou began to decline in the standard language (that is, particularly in and around London), often regarded as impolite or ambiguous in terms of politeness. It persisted, sometimes in an altered form, particularly in regional dialects of England and Scotland farther from London, as well as in the language of such religious groups as the Society of Friends. Reasons commonly maintained by modern linguists as to the decline of thou in the 17th century include the increasing identification of you with "polite society" and the uncertainty of using thou for inferiors versus you for superiors (with you being the safer default) amidst the rise of a new middle class.

See also: Middle English creole hypothesis.

  • 2sg pronouns losing out to other forms isn’t all that unusual. For instance, in most of South America (both Spanish and Portuguese), the tu/tú forms are rarely used, forms based on the third person (usted/você) or 2pl (vos) having more or less ousted them. Nov 16, 2021 at 10:30
  • Yes but they still distinguish between nominative forms and accusative, dative etc., e.g. for usted and ustedes it's lo or la, le, los or las and les. Nov 16, 2021 at 13:12
  • True, the combination of 2sg -> 2pl and nom -> acc is very unusual. In fact, just the complete conflation of nom/acc in just one personal pronoun (with no conflation in any of the others) is highly unusual. I can’t think of a single parallel for that. Nov 16, 2021 at 15:29
  • By the way, I agree there are parallels to the rise of Usted and você, but the question was asking more about the accusative and dative. Nov 16, 2021 at 19:08
  • Yeah, I got distracted by the talk about the singular/plural conflation and forgot what the main question was. Modern Gaelic languages have also levelled case in pronouns, but that’s throughout the paradigm, not just in one particular pronoun (well, it’s only in about half of them in Irish, but the development of a nom/acc distinction in tú/thú, sé/é, sí/í and siad/iad is a more recent thing there). Nov 17, 2021 at 9:14

I would not say that these pronouns lack an objective case. It is just that the subject (nominative) and object (accusative) forms are identical. In Old English, as in virtually all Indo-European languages, neuter nouns and pronouns always have the same form in the nominative and accusative, in the case of Old English "hit" for the 3rd person singular neuter. This is striking archaic feature in modern English.

  • Yet somebody else in the comments is saying that ye was the subject and you comes from the object form. Can you comment on that?
    – Martino
    Nov 18, 2021 at 16:37

I would say that whatever reasons there are are historical. If you look at related Germanic languages, they all have the same form for the neuter singular pronoun in the nominative and accusative (Dutch het, German es, Norwegian det, Icelandic það, for example), but all them of them that I can think of distinguish the two cases in the second person singular (Dutch jij/jou, German du/dich, Norwegian du/deg, Icelandic þú/þig). When one form is used for two functions, as in the neuter singular it is called syncretism; the nom/acc syncretism for neuter singular is an old Indo-European trait. Apart from the neuter singular, there is some variation even within the Germanic languages whether a language distinguishes nominative and accusative or whether a single form is syncretic for both. Icelandic distinguishes nom and acc in second person plural (þið vs. ykkur) and third person masculine plural (þeir vs. þá), but has nom/acc syncretism in the masculine singular (hann) and in the feminine plural (þær). German has nom/acc syncretism in the feminine singular (sie) and the third person plural (also sie), but distinguishes them in the masculine singular (er vs. ihn).

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