I (pronoun)

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This article is about the English personal pronoun. For other uses, see I (disambiguation).

I // is the first-person singular nominative case personal pronoun in Modern English. It is used to refer to one's self and is capitalized, although other pronouns, such as he or she, are not capitalized. In Australian English, British English and Irish English, me can refer to someone's possessions (see archaic and non-standard forms of English personal pronouns).

Personal pronouns in standard Modern English
Person (gender)SubjectObjectPossessive determinerPossessive pronounReflexive


English I originates from Old English (OE) ic. Its predecessor ic had in turn originated from the continuation of Proto-Germanic ik, and ek; ek was attested in the Elder Futhark inscriptions (in some cases notably showing the variant eka; see also ek erilaz). Linguists assume ik to have developed from the unstressed variant of ek. Variants of ic were used in various English dialects up until the 1600s.[1]

Germanic cognates are: Old Frisian ik, Old Norse ek (Danish, Norwegian jeg, Swedish jag, Icelandic ég), Old High German ih (German ich) and Gothic ik and in Dutch also "ik".

The Proto-Germanic root came, in turn, from the Proto Indo-European language (PIE). The reconstructed PIE pronoun is *egō, egóm, with cognates including Sanskrit aham, Hittite uk, Latin ego, Greek ἐγώ egō and Old Slavonic azъ, Alviri-Vidari (an Iranian language) اَز (az)

The oblique forms are formed from a stem *me- (English me), the plural from *wei- (English we), the oblique plural from *ns- (English us).


There is no known record of a definitive explanation from around the early period of this capitalisation practice.

It is likely[according to whom?] that the capitalization was prompted and spread as a result of one or more of the following:

Other considerations include:

Capitalization was already employed with pronouns in other languages at that time. It was used to denote respect of the addresser or position of the addressed.

There is also the possibility that the first instances of capitalisation may have been happenstance. Either through chance or a sense of correctness, in the practice or the delivery, the capitalisation may have spread.

There are failings of many of these explanations based on other words, but there is the possibility that the factors or factor that prompted and/or spread this change may not have been applied to all similar words or instances.

Me as a subject pronoun[edit]

Further information: Objective case § English

According to traditional grammar, the objective case appears only as the direct object of a verb, the indirect object of a verb, or the object of a proposition. But there are examples which meet with varying degree of acceptance which violate this rule.

Older versions[edit]

Old English pronouns
1stSingular[ɪtʃ]mec / mēmīn
Plural[weː]ūsicūsūser / ūre
2ndSingularþū[θuː]þec / þēþēþīn
Personal pronouns in Middle English
Firstik / ich / Imemy(n)weusoure
Secondþou / thouþee / theeþy(n) / thy(n)ȝe / yeȝow / youȝower / your
ThirdImpersonalhithit / himhishe
þei / they
þem / them
þeir / their
Feminineȝho / scho / schehirehire
Personal pronouns in Early Modern English
1st personsingularImemy/mine[# 1]mine
2nd personsingular informalthoutheethy/thine[# 1]thine
plural or formal singularye, youyouyouryours
3rd personsingularhe/she/ithim/her/ithis/her/his (it)[# 2]his/hers/his[# 2]
  1. ^ a b The possessive forms were used as genitives before words beginning with a vowel sound and letter h (e.g. thine eyes, mine heire). Otherwise, "my" and "thy" are attributive (my/thy goods) and "mine" and "thine" are predicative (they are mine/thine).
  2. ^ a b From the early Early Modern English period up until the 17th century, his was the possessive of the third person neuter it as well as of the third person masculine he; however, their has also been documented as the neutral plural possessive. Genitive "it" appears once in the 1611 King James Bible (Leviticus 25:5) as groweth of it owne accord.

See also[edit]


"Etymology of I". etymonline.com. Douglas Harper, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2010.

"Etymology of Me". etymonline.com. Douglas Harper, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2010.

Halleck, Elaine (editor). "Sum: Pronoun "I" again". LINGUIST List 9.253., n.p., Web. 20 Feb. 1998.

Jacobsen, Martin (editor). "Sum: Pronoun 'I'". LINGUIST List 9.253., n.p., Web. 20 Feb. 1998.

Mahoney, Nicole. "> Language Change". nsf.gov. n.p. 12 July 2008. Web. 21 Dec. 2010

Wells, Edward. "Further Elucidation on the Capitalization of 'I' in English". (a paper in progress). Lingforum.com. n.p., Web. 25 Dec. 2010

Further reading[edit]

Wren and Martin English Grammar book for High-schoolers.

External links[edit]