What is the difference between thee and thou and how are they used?
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Thee, thou, and thine (or thy) are Early Modern English second person singular pronouns. Thou is the subject form (nominative), thee is the object form, and thy/thine is the possessive form.
Before they all merged into the catch-all form you, English second person pronouns distinguished between nominative and objective, as well as between singular and plural (or formal):
Interestingly, when the first English translations of the Bible were being made, the informal thee and thou were used specifically in reference to God to indicate an approachable, familiar God, but as the language changed this paradoxically brought thee and thou to sound more formal to the modern English speaker.
'Thou' is historically perceived in Yorkshire (England) as being disrespectful, or over-familiar in a formal context, eg; if used to address a teacher, or upon greeting a stranger... However, 'thee' is percieved to be more respectful, as with the French usage of the words 'vous' and 'tous', of which 'tous' is regarded as offensive if used in appropriately (another conversation altogether). Barnsley folk are especially well know for having the bad habit of using 'thou', including one instance I've heard of with a French teacher, who mistakenly believed it to be endearing, and quickly chastised her pupils once she was put in the picture.
A classic Yorkshire phrase, often attributed to Ossett:
Don't thee thou me, thee thou thissen, and 'ow tha likes thee thouing. (Don't you thou me, you thou yourself, and see how you like it!)
Great answer from keithjgrant. Put otherwise, thou is closely equivalent to the French tu or the German du, and ye is like the French vous or the German Sie.
These answers are helpful. To succinctly clarify one aspect: Thou is a more familiar or informal way to say 'you.' Thee is the more formal way to say 'you.' Dustin Hoffman, as Ben Braddock, might say "Dost thee desire tea, Mrs. Robinson?" but "Dost thou desire tea, Elaine?"
protected by Community♦ Apr 18 '14 at 15:03
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