Monday, February 11, 2008

English Grammar Lesson 84 - 88: Personal Pronoun

CASES OF PERSONAL PRONOUNS.

I The Nominative.

Nominative forms.

84. The nominative forms of personal pronouns have the same uses as the nominative of nouns. The case of most of these pronouns can be determined more easily than the case of nouns, for, besides a nominative use, they have a nominative form. The words I, thou, he, she, we, ye, they, are very rarely anything but nominative in literary English, though ye is occasionally used as objective.

Additional nominatives in spoken English.

85. In spoken English, however, there are some others that are added to the list of nominatives: they are, me, him, her, us, them, when they occur in the predicate position. That is, in such a sentence as, "I am sure it was him," the literary language would require he after was; but colloquial English regularly uses as predicate nominatives the forms me, him, her, us, them, though those named in Sec. 84 are always subjects. Yet careful speakers avoid this, and follow the usage of literary English.

II. The Possessive.

Not a separate class.

86. The forms my, thy, his, her, its, our, your, their, are sometimes grouped separately as POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS, but it is better to speak of them as the possessive case of personal pronouns, just as we speak of the possessive case of nouns, and not make more classes.

Absolute personal pronouns.

The forms mine, thine, yours, hers, theirs, sometimes his and its, have a peculiar use, standing apart from the words they modify instead of immediately before them. From this use they are called ABSOLUTE PERSONAL PRONOUNS, or, some say, ABSOLUTE POSSESSIVES.

As instances of the use of absolute pronouns, note the following:-

'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands. -Shakespeare.

And since thou own'st that praise, I spare thee mine.-Cowper.

My arm better than theirs can ward it off.-Landor.

Thine are the city and the people of Granada.-Bulwer.

Old use of mine and thine.

Formerly mine and thine stood before their nouns, if the nouns began with a vowel or h silent; thus,-

Shall I not take mine ease in mine inn?-Shakespeare.

Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice.-Id.

If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out.-Bible.

My greatest apprehension was for mine eyes.-Swift.

This usage is still preserved in poetry.

Double and triple possessives.

87. The forms hers, ours, yours, theirs, are really double possessives, since they add the possessive s to what is already a regular possessive inflection.

Besides this, we have, as in nouns, a possessive phrase made up of the preposition of with these double possessives, hers, ours, yours, theirs, and with mine, thine, his, sometimes its.

Their uses.

Like the noun possessives, they have several uses:-

(1) To prevent ambiguity, as in the following:-

I have often contrasted the habitual qualities of that gloomy friend of theirs with the astounding spirits of Thackeray and Dickens.-J. T. Fields.

No words of ours can describe the fury of the conflict.-J. F. Cooper.

(2) To bring emphasis, as in these sentences:-

This thing of yours that you call a Pardon of Sins, it is a bit of rag-paper with ink.-Carlyle.

This ancient silver bowl of mine, it tells of good old times. -Holmes.

(3) To express contempt, anger, or satire; for example,-

"Do you know the charges that unhappy sister of mine and her family have put me to already?" says the Master.-Thackeray.

He [John Knox] had his pipe of Bordeaux too, we find, in that old Edinburgh house of his.-Carlyle.

"Hold thy peace, Long Allen," said Henry Woodstall, "I tell thee that tongue of thine is not the shortest limb about thee."-Scott.

(4) To make a noun less limited in application; thus,-

A favorite liar and servant of mine was a man I once had to drive a brougham.-Thackeray.

In New York I read a newspaper criticism one day, commenting upon a letter of mine.-Id.

What would the last two sentences mean if the word my were written instead of of mine, and preceded the nouns?

About the case of absolute pronouns.

88. In their function, or use in a sentence, the absolute possessive forms of the personal pronouns are very much like adjectives used as nouns.

In such sentences as, "The good alone are great," "None but the brave deserves the fair," the words italicized have an adjective force and also a noun force, as shown in Sec. 20.

So in the sentences illustrating absolute pronouns in Sec. 86: mine stands for my property, his for his property, in the first sentence; mine stands for my praise in the second. But the first two have a nominative use, and mine in the second has an objective use.

They may be spoken of as possessive in form, but nominative or objective in use, according as the modified word is in the nominative or the objective.

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