English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What is the origin of the personal pronouns I, you, he, she, it, we, and they?

share|improve this question
I would advance a guess, and say that they all originates from PIE. – Eldroß Feb 23 '11 at 10:51
@Eldros is referring to Proto-Indo European (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto-Indo-European_language). – Chris B. Behrens Feb 23 '11 at 15:09
I would have thought pie was the origin of "mine." Pies are quite tasty and oughtn't be shared. – horatio Feb 23 '11 at 18:21
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I haven't got time to take them all the way (or to check references, so this is from memory), but yes they do go back to PIE, with the possible exception of she. But they come by different routes.

  • I from Old English ic, ultimately from PIE eghom.
  • You is historically the object case of ye, cognate with German euch, and Sanskrit yuyam. Note that these are plural: the singular thou has dropped out of use in most English dialects.
  • He is certainly common Germanic (Cf Swedish hän) and I think it goes back to the same root as Latin is.
  • She is another word that came in after the Old English period, but I think it's cognate with German sie. I'm not sure of its earlier history.
  • We is also Germanic (German wir), but I don't recall its older history offhand.
  • They is Old Norse, and replaced Old English hie. It goes back to the same demonstrative root as that.

I hope somebody has time to expand my random recollections.

share|improve this answer
That is broadly in line with en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_English_pronouns – Henry Feb 23 '11 at 20:02

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.