Why is this sentence using 'thee' (which is, afaik the oblique case) and not 'thou'?

The second person singular -in this case- should be the subject, i thought. The subject is the one doing the action, so i'd intuitively use the nominative case 'thou', but instead here the second person singular seems to be the object, in which case fare should be the verb which is acted on the object making it transitive.

Does that mean i can use the verb transitively? Like "i fare you!"?

Dictionaries say it's intransitive, which makes this sentence a riddle to me. Can anyone help me clear it up?

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    And why "thee" and not "thou" in "Get thee to a nunnery."? Jan 21 '15 at 2:12
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    And "Get thee behind me, Satan" (as well as a number of other "get thee" constructions in the King James version)? But in fairness we might also ask, why "get thee" and not "get thyself"?
    – Sven Yargs
    Jan 21 '15 at 3:00
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    I cannot answer the question itself, but the thee in phrases involving get is reflexive. It's a vestige from the olden times when me, thee, us, you and so on could be used reflexively, rather than the more modern myself, thyself, ourselves, yourselves. Quite simply, get thee hence means get yourself out of here.
    – Anonym
    Jan 21 '15 at 3:09
  • @SvenYargs i think thee can be used as a reflexive too, but i'm not sure. In german 'dich' (which is the accusative 'thee') and 'dich selbst' ('thy self') are interchangeable sometimes. It's probably the same in english. It's also logical: you act an action upon someone else (transitive verb - meaning oblique case), but in some cases the object upon which you act happens to be yourself (turns into a reflexive, but it's still the same construction). So you would say 'get him behind me' not 'get he behind me'...replace him with thee/thyself and he with thou.
    – Matthaeus
    Jan 21 '15 at 13:37

The OED explains regarding thee:

  1. Used as nominative, instead of thou.

    Often so used dialectally, and, in recent times, usually by Quakers, esp. with vb. in 3rd pers. sing.; but thĕ or thă unemphatic often represents both thou and thee. Now rare.

Here are of its few citations of this:

  • C. 1375 Sc. Leg. Saints vi. (Thomas) 617 ― Þe venys þat my god wrath wil be with me.
  • C. 1470 Henry Wallace ii. 93 ― Go hens, the Scot, the mekill dewill the speid.
  • A. 1590 Marr. Wit & Wisd. (1846) 12 ― Didest the nere se man before?
  • 1596 Shaks. 1 Hen. IV, i. ii. 127 ― How agrees the Diuell and thee about thy Soule?
  • 1605 Shaks. Lear i. iv. 204 ― And yet I would not be thee, Nunckle.
  • 1684 Bunyan Pilgr. ii. 83 ― What canst thee earn a day, quoth he?
  • 1687 W. Hitchcock in Jrnl. Friends’ Hist. Soc. IV. 74 ― If thee canst sell 250 acres of it & ye house.
  • 1852 Mrs. Stowe Uncle Tom’s C. xiii, ― ‘What does thee want, father?’ said Rachel.
  • 1852 Mrs. Stowe Uncle Tom’s C. xvii, ― ‘Friend, thee isn’t wanted here’.
  • 1861 E. Waugh Birtle Carter’s T. 15 ― An’ mind te tells no lies abeawt th’ lad i’ thy talk.
  • 1926 Amer. Speech I. 638/1 ― Even in my boyhood in New England I heard very few Quakers who habitually said thee.
  • 1950 B. Russell Let. 6 Mar. in B. Strachey Remarkable Relations (1980) xxi. 312 ― What thee says about our marriage is very generous.
  • 1964 Friend 10 Apr. 453/1 ― Perhaps thee has noticed the comment on this point in our Friends Journal on February 15.
  • 1980 B. Strachey Remarkable Relations xxi. 314 ― Alys [Russell (1867–1951)] had been the last of the older ones; the last to say Thee and Thy.

So it has always been occasionally used this way, especially in dialect. But note the two Shakespeare references.

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    Could some of the thees - specifically those in sentences involving ditransitive verbs - not be considered dative? It was not uncommon to omit second- and third-person singular pronouns, since the verb's conjugation would make the subject clear enough. It's not without reason that What canst thee earn a day may mean What can you earn for yourself in a day.
    – Anonym
    Jan 21 '15 at 3:15
  • @tchrist thank you. So it all boils down to a dialectal difference then...
    – Matthaeus
    Jan 21 '15 at 13:44
  • @Anonym thee had the function of both dative and accusative, so yeah, sometimes it can be a dative as well. Earn is intransitive and would normally need a nominative. Just replace it with an other pronoun to test it out. E.g. you would say 'He earns something' not 'something earns him', that's why it's confusing...
    – Matthaeus
    Jan 21 '15 at 13:50

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