Page images

The word pronoun comes from the two Latin words, pro, which means for, or instead of, and nomen, a name, or noun, Hence you perceive, that pronoun means for a noun, or instead of a noun.

In the sertence, " The man is happy; he is benevolent; he is useful ;" you perceive, that the word he is used instead of the noun man; consequently he must be a pronoun. You observe, too, that, by making use of the pronoun he in this sentence, we. avoid the repetition of the moun man, for without the pronoun, the sentence would be rendered thus, “ The man is happy; the man is benevolent; the man is useful.”

By looking again at the definition, you will notice, that pronouns always stand for nouns, but they do not always avoid the repetition of nouns. Repetilion means repealing or mentioning the same thing again. In the sentence, “I come to die for my country,” the pronouns, I and my, stand for the name of the per son who speaks ; but they do not avoid the repetition of that name, because the name or noun for which the pronouns are used, is not mentioned at all. Pronouns of the third person, generally avoid the repetition of the nouns for which they stand; but pronouns of the firsd and second person, sometimes avoid the repetition of nouns, and sometimes they do not.

A little farther illustration of the pronoun will show you its importance, and, also, that its nature is very easily comprehended. If we had no pronouns in our language, we should be obliged to express ourselves in this manner : " A woman went to a man, and told the man that the man was in danger of being murdered by a gang of robbers ; as a gang of robbers had made preparations for attacking the man. The man thanked the woman for the woman's kindness, and, as the man was unable to defend the man's self, the man left the man's house, and went to a neighbour's.”

This would be a laborious style indeed; but, by the help of pronouns, we can express the same ideas with far greater ease and conciseness ; A woman went to a man, and told him, that he was in great danger of being murdered by a gang of robbers, who had made preparations for attacking him. He thanked her for her kindness, and, as he was unable to defend him. seif, he left his house and went to a neighbour's.”

If you look at these examples a few moments, you cannot be at a loss to tell which words are pronouns ; and you will observe, too, that they all stand for nouns.

Pronouns are generally divided into three kinds, the Personal, the Adjective, and the Re


lative pronouns. They are all known by the lists.

1. OF PERSONAL PRONOUNS (PERSONAL PRONouns are distinguished from the relative, by their denoting

the person of the nouns for which they stand. There are five of them ; I, thou, he; she, it ; with their p.urals, We, ye or you, they.

To pronouns belong gender, person, number, and case.

Gender. When we speak of a man, we say, he, his, him; when we speak of a woman, we say, she, heros, her; and when we speak of a thing, we say it. Hence you perceive, that gender belongs to pronouns as well as to nouns. Example ; general, in gratitude to the lady, offered her his hand ; but she, not knowing him, declined accepting it.” The pronouns his and him, in this sentence, personate or represent the noun general ; they are, therefore, of the masculine gender: her and she personate lady; therefore, they are feminine : and it represents hand; for which reason it is of the neuter gender. This illustration shows you, then, that pronouns must be of the same gender as the nouns are for which they stand. But, as it relates to the variation of the pronouns to express sex,

Gender has respect only to the third person singular of the pronouns, he, she, it. He is masçuline; she is feminine; it is neuter,

You may naturally inquiro, why pronouns of the first and second persons are not varied to denote the gender of their nouns, as well as of the third. The reason is obvious. The first person, that is, the person speaking, and the second person, or the person spoken to, being at the same time the subjects of the discourse, are supposed to be present; from which, and other circumstances, their sex is commonly known, and therefore, the pronouns that represent these persons, need not be marked by a distinction of gender ; but the third person, that is, the person or thing spoken of, being absent, and in many respects unknown, necessarily requires the pronoun that stands for it, to be marked by a distinction of gender.

In parsing, we sometimes apply gender to pronouns of the first and second person, and also to the plural number of the third person; but these have no peculiar form to denote their

gender; therefore they have no agreement, in this respect, with the nouns which they represent.

Person. Pronouns have three persons in each number) I, is the first person Thou, is the second person Singular. He, she, or it, is the third person We, is the first person Ye or you, is the second person Plural. They, is the third person This account of persons will be very intelligible, when you reflect, that there are three persons who may be the subject of any discourse : first, the person who speaks, may speak of himself; secondly, he may speak of the person to whom he addresses himself; thirdly, he may speak of some other person ; and as the speakers, the persons spoken to, and the persons spoken of, may be many, so each of these persons must have a plural number.

Pronouns of the second and third person, always agree in person with the nouns they represent; but pronouns of the first person, do not. Whenever a pronoun of the first person is used, it represents a noun; but nouns are never of the first person, therefore these pronouns cannot agree in person with their


NUMBER. Pronouns, like nouns, have two numbers, the singular and the plural; as, I, thou, he; we, ye or you, they.

Case. Pronouns have three cases, the nommative, the possessive, and the objective.

In the next place I will present to you the declension of the personal pronouns, which declension you must commit to me. mory before you proceed any farther.

The advantages resulting from the committing of the follow ing declension, are so great and diversified, that you cannot be too particular in your attention to it. You recollect, that it is sometimes very difficult to distinguish the nominative case of a noun from the objective, because these cases of nouns are not marked by a difference in termination ; but this difficulty is removed in regard to the personal pronouns, for their cases are always known by their termination. By studying the declen

Obj. him.

sion you

will learn, not only the cases of the pronouns, but, also, their genders, persons, and numbers. DECLENSION OF THE PERSONAL PRONOUNS


Nom. I,

we, Poss. my or mine,

our or ours, Obj. me.


Plur. Nom. thou,

ye or you, Poss. thy or thine,

your or yours, Obj. thee.

you. THIRD PERSON. Nas. Sing.

Plur. Nom, he,

they, Poss. his,

their or theirs,

them. * THIRD PERSON. Fem. Sing Nom. she,

they, Poss. her or hers,

their or theirs,

Neut. Sing

Nom. it,
Poss. its,

their or theirs,


NOTES. 1. When self is added to the personal pronouns, as himself, myself

, itself, themselves, &c. they are called compound personal pronouns, and are used in the nominative or objective case, but not in the possessive.

2. In order to avoid the disagrecable harshness of sound, occasioned by the frequent recurrence of the terininations est, eest, in the adaptation of our verbs to the nominative thou, a modern innovation which substitutes you for thou, in familiar style, has generally been adopted. This innovation conui butes greatly to the harmony of our colloquial style. You was formerly ra. stricted to the plural number; but now it is employed to represent either is sugulas or a plural noun. li ought to be recoilected, however, that when


Obj. her.


Obj. it.

ased as the representative of a singular noun, this word retains its onginan plural form; and, therefore, the verb connected with it, should always be plural. Inattention to this peculiarity, has betrayed some writers into the erroneous conclusion, that, because you implies unity when it represents a smgular noun, it ought, when thus employed, to be followed by a singular verb; as, “When was you there?” “How far was you from the parties?” Such a construction, however, is not supported by good usage, nor by analogy. It is as manisest a solecism as to say, Wc am, or we is. Were it, in any case, admnissible to connect a singular vcrb with you, the use of was would still be ungrammatical, for this forın of the verb is confined to the first and third persons, and you is second person. Wast being second person, it would approximate nearer to correctness to say, you wast. We never use the singular of the present tense with you :-you art, you is ; you walkest, you walks. Why, then, should any attempt be made to force a usage so unnatural and gratuitous as the connecting of the singular verb in the past tense with this pronoun? In every point of view, the construction, “When were you there?“How far were you from the parties ?" is preferable to the other.

3. The words my, thy, his, her, our, your, their, are, by many, denominated possessive adjective pronouns ; but they always stand for nouns in the possesRive case. They ought, therefore, to be classed with the personal pronouns That principle of classification which ranks them with the adjective pronouns, would also throw all nouns in the possessive case among the adjectives. Example: “The lady gave the gentleman her watch for his horse." In this sentence her personatcs, or stands for, the nou: "lady," and his represents “gentleman." This fact is clearly shown by rendering the sentence thus, “ The lady gave the gentleman the lady's watch for the gentleman's horse." If lady's and gentleman's are nouns, her and his must be personal pronouns. The same remarks apply to my, thy, our, your, their and its. This view of these words may be objected to by those who speculate and refine upon the principles of grammar until they prove their non-existence, but it is believed, nevertheless, to be based on sound reason and common sense.

4. Mine, thine, his, hers, ours, yours, theirs, have, by many respectable grainmarians, been considered merely the possessive cases of personal pronouns, whilst, by others, they have been denominated pronouns or nouns in the nominative or objective case. It is believed, however, that a little attention to the meaning and office of these words, will clearly show the impropriety of both these classifications. Those who pursue the former arrangemeni, allege, that, in the examples, “ You may imagine what kind of faith theirs was; My pleasures are past; hers and yours are to come; they applauded his conduct, but condemned hers and yours,” the words theirs, hers, and yours, are personal pronouns in the possessive case, and governed by their respective nouns understood. To prove this, they construct the sentences thus, you may imagine what kind of faith their faith was ;-her pleasures and your pleasures are to come ;-but condemned her conduct and your conduct;" or thus, “ You may imagine what kind of faith the faith of them was ;—the pleasures of her and the pleasures of you, are to come, but condemned the conduct of her and the conduct of you." But these constructions, (both of which are correct,) prove too much for their purpose; for, as soon as we supply the nouns after these words, they are resolved into personal pronouns of kindred meaning, and the nouns which we supply: thus, theirs becomes, their faith : hers, her pleasures; and yours, your pleasures. This evidently gives us two words instead of, and altogether distinct from, the first ; so that, in parsing, their faith, we are not, in reality, analyzing theirs, but two other words of which theirs is the proper representative. These remarks also prove, with equal force, the impropriety of calling these words merely simple pronouns or nouns in the nominative or objective

Without attempting to develop. the original or intrinsick meaning of these pluralizing adjuncts, ne and s, which were, no doubt, formerly detached


« PreviousContinue »