Essentially, why is the pronoun the same in different uses for feminine but not masculine?



It is her car.


I know her.



It is his car.


I know him.

  • See Etymonline for her and Etymonline for his. Hisis was used for a time, but "failed to stick".
    – ab2
    Feb 10, 2017 at 0:24

1 Answer 1


These pronouns follow the usual genitive and dative of Old English.

Masculine Genitive: his

Masculine Dative: him

Feminine Genitive: hire

Feminine Dative: hire

There can be no good explanation as to why these older forms were what they were.

The dialects that formed Old English are not attested before their arrival in England.

It is not generally thought that there is an accusative case in English presently. Object pronouns are used for both direct and indirect objects. Those pronouns are usually referred to as "objective case". Some grammarians might differ on that. I do not think using the terms accusative or dative for those pronouns is wrong, but it does not seem useful except, perhaps, in instructing English to persons whose native language has proprietary pronouns for those cases.

  • 1
    Syncretism, where different grammatical forms share the same morphology, is common throughout Indo-european languages.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 9, 2017 at 21:40
  • 1
    Fine, but that is a name, not an explanation
    – J. Taylor
    Feb 9, 2017 at 22:11
  • True. My point is that it occurs all over the place, not just in this one word in English.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 9, 2017 at 22:27
  • 1
    I hope I did not impress anybody that I thought English was singular in that regard.. I recall thinking Latin and Greek were a little screwy until I came to the reality that many of the oddities in any of the so-called IE languages were common to others. Many seem directly related.
    – J. Taylor
    Feb 9, 2017 at 22:41

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