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We shall discuss thine and your under the head of Possessive Pronouns.
Thee and you, old forms of the dative, are commonly used as secondary objectives.
Thou and ye are very commonly used in solemn language, and in poetry :
Thou sun, said I, fair light!
Milton, Paradise Lost, viii. 273–7. It is a common error with young writers to begin by using thou in the early part of a sentence; and then, forgetting the commencement, to slide into you; and sometimes even to mix up thou' with your,' or you' with “thy' in the same clause. In poetry this licence is sometimes taken: as,
I prythee give me back my heart,
Since I can not have thine ;
Sir John Suckling. In older English ye was the nominative of the plural, and you the objective: as, 'I know you not, whence ye are.' But the forms were confounded, and in Shakespeare we find ye employed as an objective: so, The more shame for ye ; holy men I thought ye.
Henry VIII., iii. 1. On the stage it is very common for actors to utter ye in the objective, where the copies have you. They seem to think it more rhetorical.
191. The forms of the Third Personal Pronoun are made up from the Anglo-Saxon personal he, heó, hit, and the demonstrative se, seó, thæt. We have, Singular.
M. F. N.
their Dat. him her it
them Acc. him her it
them. In Old English the neuter nominative was hit, and the
This neuter form of the genitive constantly occurs in our English Bible: as,
The fruit-tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is
in itself.-Gen. i. 11.
Gen. iii. 15.
:-Matt. v. 13. The word its does not occur in the original edition of the English Bible. In one passage, where our modern copies have its,
That which groweth of its own accord--Leviticus xxv. 5. the original copy reads,
That which groweth of it own accord.
And that same eye, whose bend doth awe the world,
Julius Cæsar, i. 2.
Ibid. iv. 3. But he also has its : as, Heaven grant us its peace, but not the King of Hungary's.
Measure for Measure, i. 2. Before the form its came into full use, there seems to have been a period of transition, when it was used as a 'genitive by juxta-position : 'thus,
It knighthood and it friends.
Ben Jonson, Silent Woman, ii. 3. Go to it grandam, child . . . and it grandam will give it
a plum.-Shakespeare, King John, ii. 1. It will be observed that the forms of the plural they, their, them, wherein th is found, are derived from the Anglo-Saxon demonstrative.
192. In nouns, there is no difference in form between the nominative and objective cases; but as in pronouns such a distinction exists, we must be careful to observe it, especially in compound sentences. • She is as tall as me,' should be, as tall as I,' meaning 'as I am.' And so where the poet Thomson says,
The nations not so blest as thee,
Must in their turn to tyrants fall;
The dread and envy of them all : he makes thee 'rhyme with free; ' but his grammar is wrong; he should have said 'as thou,' because he means . as thou art.
So again, no one would think of saying “let I go,' instead of saying 'let me go ;' and yet many persons think it right to say, let you and I go. Charles Dickens systematically adopts this construction, and he may think that it is correct. And so Southey : Let
you and I endeavour to improve the inclosure of the
Carr.–The Doctor. But a little reflection must convince us, that if it is correct to say 'let me go,' the addition of 'you' can have no power to turn an objective into a nominative construction. Besides, in this case, let is properly a verb in the imperative mood, go is an infinitive dependent upon that imperative; and the construction is, 'grant me to go,' or allow me to go.' Similarly, let
you and me go' means 'grant you and me to go. If, indeed, we could suppose that introduced, the case would be quite altered : 'grant that you and I go;' but such a phrase as 'let that’ is unwarranted, and is barely intelligible.
193. The construction after but is more doubtful. The word was originally a preposition be-utan, "by-out,' akin in signification to with-utan, 'with-out :' For warld's wrak but welfare nought avails.
Dunbar. that is, without well-being.' So Gawin Douglas,
Admonist us but mare delay to ga. Book 4. without more delay.'
Now if we admit that 'but still retains its force as a preposition, we may say, 'there was no one present but me,' that is, beside me.' If on the other hand we do not allow the prepositional force of but,' we must consider 'but' as nothing else than a conjunction, and say, there was no one present but I,' that is, ' but I was present.' So Shakespeare : Which none but heaven, and you, and I shall hear.
King John, i. 1. And so Coleridge:
Which none may hear but she and thou. See 473.
194. The rules that regulate the use of a verb, in the singular or in the plural, after two or more nouns, or after a collective noun, apply also to the use of pronouns in the singular, or in the plural; as,
Every one must judge of his own feelings. But as every one' must include women as well as men, and as the singular preserves the distinction of gender, there is a tendency to avoid the difficulty by using the plural : If an ox gore a man or woman, so that they die.
Exodus xxi. 28. Not on outward charms alone should man or woman
build their pretensions to please.--Opie. In such instances, Cobbett would repeat the pronoun,
in different genders, in the singular : so that he or she die,' build his or her pretensions;' for he argues that, however disagreeable repetition may be, it is better than obscurity or inaccuracy
This point is not omitted in the parody upon Cobbett's style in the Rejected Addresses:
"I take it for granted that every intelligent man, woman,
and child, to whom I address myself, has stood severally and respectively in Little Russell Street, and cast their, his, her, and its eyes on the outside of this building before they paid their money to view the inside.'
Hampshire Farmer's Address.
195. In using pronouns we should constantly remember to what words they refer; and examine whether the reference be consistent with other parts of the sentence, as well as with the clause in which the pronoun itself is found. For want of proper attention errors frequently occur in the use of
pronouns. Take, for example, the following sentence from Addison :
There are, indeed, but very few who know how to be idle and innocent, or have a relish of any pleasures that are not criminal; every diversion they take is at the expense of some one virtue or other, and their very first step out of business is into vice or folly.'--Spectator, No. 411.
Of this passage Dr. Blair says (Rhetoric, Lecture 20):Nothing can be more elegant, or more finely turned than this sentence. It is neat, clear, and musical. We could hardly alter one word, or displace one member, without spoiling it. Few sentences are to be found more finished or more happy.”
But to what persons does the pronoun they relate in that sentence? Surely not to the good few' who know how to be innocent, but to the wicked many' who plunge into vice, As Cobbett justly remarks (Grammar, S 176) the meaning of the sentence is this : 'that but few persons know how to be idle and innocent; that few persons have a relish of any pleasures that are not criminal; that every diversion these few persons take is at the expense of some one virtue or other, and that the very first step of these few persons out of business is into vice or folly. Hence he adds, the sentence says precisely the contrary of what the author meant; or rather, the whole is perfect nonsense.
All this arises from the misuse of the pronoun they. If, instead of this word, the author had put people in general, or most people, or most men, or any word, or words, of the same meaning, all would have been right.'
Yet I have often asked persons to examine this sentence; and at the first reading scarcely any one has been able to detect an error. We are so accustomed to use they in a general sense, that the grammatical reference to the few' does not readily occur to the mind. A critic, with whom I conversed on one occasion, undertook to defend Addison against Cobbett, on the ground that the pronoun they is here used indefinitely, like on in French, and man in German. The defence is more ingenious than sound. It is better candidly to admit that Addison tripped; and that Dr. Blair, being occupied with the harmony of the sentence, did not observe the error. In his remarks
very droll; but he is too severe upon Dr. Blair.
196. Where several persons are spoken of in the same sentence, the reference to each is sometimes doubtful, especially if the reader is not well acquainted with the matter in question. Take this passage from Sir W. Blackstone:
For, the custom of the manor has, in both cases, so far
superseded the will of the lord, that, provided the services be performed, or stipulated for by fealty, he cannot, in the first instance, refuse to admit the heir of his tenant, upon his death ; nor, in the second, can he remove his present tenant so long as he lives.
Kerr's Blackstone, ii. 94. This means that the lord cannot, in the first instance, ref to admit the heir of his tenant, in case of that tenant's