I'm writing a kinda book where it's common to use archaic pronouns like thee, thou and thy but I'm not sure if an American, a Canadian etc., will immediately know what these pronouns mean or they'll have to google it.

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    Particularly those three are recurring in relevant media or in ironic usage. Over the course of their schooldays and general consumerism (films, games, fiction books), most people will know them right away; they are not exotic.
    – dakab
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 7:30
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    I had upvoted dakab's comment, but note that even non-native speakers who may have read the King James Version of the Bible would be familiar with these.... Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 10:14
  • Do they also use the second-person verbs to go with thou? When the subject is thou, the verb has to agree with it. Why weepest thou? Thou hast finally arrived! Art thou wounded? And thou is only subject; object is thee, just like I and me. Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 14:18
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    We would understand it, though it's a passive understanding. The average English speaker wouldn't know how to correctly inflect the verb not when the use each form. Just make sure to do it correctly for those of us that do ;-) Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 22:42
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    @guifa As eminently evidenced by the number of people who think “Check thyself before thy wreck thyself” makes any sense whatsoever. Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 22:57

3 Answers 3


I learned English as a native language in India, and the only places I encountered these archaic pronouns were in older literature (Not just Shakespeare, but also Tagore, among others), and in many things related to religion.

Interestingly, many translations of religious texts from Sanskrit to English use many archaic pronouns. One reason for this could be that the translations are simply old, or that these pronouns are intentionally used to make it sound lofty.


Tha', thou, thy, certainly remain in every day usage in the North East of England amongst a proportion of people while "ye" remains in common (if informal) usage across Scotland and Ireland. The main distinction between these areas are the history of the language - Celtic areas generally retain "ye" while Danelaw generally retain "thou" (similarities between modern Norwegian and the Yorkshire dialect).

In the South East of England (as is the case with the Capital centres of most countries) they have absorbed "formal" dialectial discourse more quickly if not readily (what we think of as Modern English is a mix of London and Eastern dialects).


Though the archaic pronouns are no longer commonly used I think people may have easily come into contact with them trough education, religious ceremonies or Shakespear's plays for instance.


  • In standard modern English, thou continues to be used only in formal religious contexts, in literature that seeks to reproduce archaic language and in certain fixed phrases such as "fare thee well". For this reason, many associate the pronoun with solemnity or formality.

  • Many dialects have compensated for the lack of a singular/plural distinction caused by the disappearance of thou and ye through the creation of new plural pronouns or pronominals, such as yinz, yous and y'all or the colloquial you guys. Ye remains common in some parts of Ireland but these examples just given vary regionally and are usually restricted to colloquial speech.

  • The word "thou" is now largely archaic, having been replaced in almost all contexts by you. It is used in parts of Northern England and by Scots (/ðu/).


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