Archaic Speech for Dummies I - Thee, thou and using it in a sentence

Archaic Speech for Dummies I - Thee, thou and using it in a sentence

A Lesson by Anthony Hart-Jones

In which you learn how to use 'thee' and 'thou' without looking stupid.


First of all, ask yourself if it is really a good idea. If you are writing a barbarian, you only really need to yell ‘Krom!’ a few times. On the other hand, done well with a character who justifies it, it can be a great idea. Think of Shakespeare; Romeo spoke in couplets, Hamlet too, but they had style and class. Dogberry, in contrast, was not the ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ type.

Still going for it? Okay… Let’s start with some basic grammar rules. We should start with ‘nominative’ and ‘accusative’ because they are the way to tell whether to use ‘thee’ and ‘whom’ or ‘thou’ and ‘who’.

Think of a sentence where you do something to someone, then turn it on its head. “I eat him. He eats me.” In this case, we see the familiar old change from ‘I’ to ‘me’ and from ‘he’ to ‘him’. When an object is doing something, it is called nominative or the subject; these are the ‘he’ and ‘I’ moments. When something is done to an object, it is accusative or the object; these are the ‘me’ and the ‘him’ moments.

We can apply this same concept to the words ‘who’ and ‘thou’ - “Who killed thee?” and “Thou hast killed whom?” This also highlights one of the other little points; when you say ‘thou’ (anywhere where you would use ‘I’), you actually change the way that you end the verb. This is where you get to say things like ‘didst thou’ and ‘thou art’ instead of the more plain ‘did you’ and ‘you are’ of day to day life.

In general, the rule is that most verbs add an ‘s’ when you say ‘he/she/it’ and so you add ‘st’ after saying ‘thou’.

With me so far? just one more rule - my and mine. This one is easy too, once you know the trick; if you would say ‘an’ then feel free to say ‘mine’, but anywhere you would say ‘a’ is a case for ‘my’. Hence; “mine eyes” and “mine a*s”, but “my nose” and “my mule”.

So, to recap…

I / He -> Who / Thou
Me / Him -> Whom / Thee

An apple -> Mine apple
A pear -> My pear

I have / I had
You have / You had
Thou hast / Thou hadst (it might take some practice, but the word ‘hadst’ feels good to say)
Who has / Who hath

“Thou art a villain, my brother.”
“Who hath been eating thee?”
“Whom did mine elephant eat?”

It takes some getting used to, but it's not too hard.  If you have ever studied another language, you've probably had to do nominative / accusative before.  A few of them even have a formal version of you like the English 'thou', so that will help too.

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Added on September 4, 2012
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Anthony Hart-Jones
Anthony Hart-Jones

United Kingdom