In the King James Version of the Old Testament, the phrase in the which is used in Genesis 1:29, 42:38, 19:29, 45:6 and Numbers 6:5. It is also used in the New Testament: Luke 19:30, 23:29, John 4:53, 5:28, Acts 17:31, 26:16, Colossians 3:7, and Peter 3:10. For example:

  • If mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. (Gen. 42:38 KJV)
  • Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. (Luke 19:30 KJV)

The phrase in the which appears to be an archaic use of English that is no longer acceptable grammar. During what time period would this usage have been acceptable grammar?

  • 1
    Can you include some of these examples in the post?
    – Laurel
    Jun 5, 2020 at 18:03
  • Late Middle and early Modern English (1400-1600) probably. Jun 5, 2020 at 18:10
  • "The which" appears to be a nominalised adjective, (The OED has it as a pronoun.) 1611 Bible Doe not they blaspheme that worthy Name, by the which ye are called? ++ 1660 P. Heylyn To put his hunting spear amongst them, and the which of them soever should lay hold upon it, should be..drawn out of the water. 1682 J. Bunyan He told too, the which I had almost forgot, how Diabolus had put the Town of Mansoul into Arms. ++ It was continued to indicate religious or archaic language: 1884 Ld. Tennyson He holp the King to break down our castles, for the which I hate him.
    – Greybeard
    Jun 5, 2020 at 19:25
  • 1
    It used to be grammatical for articles to modify relative pronouns. Now it's not. Jun 5, 2020 at 19:38
  • Interesting. How would we know if it were a relative pronoun or a nominalised adjective? ++ a1824 Ld. Byron Wks. (1842) 193/1 Finished copying August..1820; the which copying makes ten times the toil of composing. ++ 1861 D. G. Rossetti tr. Dante Vita Nuova in Early Ital. Poets ii. 297 Of the which thing I bethought me to speak unto her. If the noun is omitted, it still makes sense.
    – Greybeard
    Jun 5, 2020 at 19:44

1 Answer 1


The which is indeed archaic and used nowadays to convey an antiquated atmosphere. Grammarphobia's investigation sheds light on your query:

In older English, “the which” was sometimes used in place of “which” alone, a usage dating from the early 1300s. Essentially, for a few hundred years “the which” competed with “which” as a relative pronoun and a relative adjective.

Linguists say “the which” was common in the early Modern English period (late 1400s to late 1600s) but had fallen out of use by the late 1700s. Today, the Oxford English Dictionary says, it’s archaic.

For curious minds, the site gives the first instances of the phrase:

The OED’s earliest uses of “the which” in writing, as both a relative pronoun and a relative adjective, are from Cursor Mundi, an anonymous Middle English poem believed written sometime before 1325. At the time, “the which” was written a variety of ways: “Þe quilk,” þe whilk,” “Þe whiche,” etc.

The article concludes with what I said in the beginning, that its use is limited today and used with the intention to evoke a past period or style of language:

Uses of “the which” were uncommon after the late 18th century, as we said above, but they occasionally appeared afterward, mostly in poetic or historical writing.

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