Thy Or Thine: Understanding the Difference
Shakespeare knew how to use language to create meaning and show emotion. In his works, he employed the archaic second-person singular pronouns, “thy” and “thine,” to convey a sense of familiarity or formality between characters. These pronouns have been largely abandoned in modern English, but understanding their subtle differences can still help writers achieve a particular tone.
Thy: The Possessive Form of “You”
The word “thy” is an archaic possessive form of “you,” used to show ownership or a connection between two things. It is similar to the modern “your” and is often used in conjunction with a noun or pronoun, as in “thy house” or “thyself.”
Thy is typically used before a consonant, as in “thy love” or “thy book.” It is also used before words that begin with a vowel sound, but are pronounced with a consonant sound, as in “thy hour” or “thy humble.”
Thy has been replaced by “your” in modern English, but it is still used in some religious and poetic contexts. For example, in the Lord’s Prayer, the phrase “thy will be done” is still used.
Thine: The Possessive Form of “You” Before a Vowel Sound
“Thine” is also an archaic possessive form of “you,” but it is used before a vowel sound. It is similar to the modern “yours” and is used to show ownership or a connection between two things.
“Thine” is typically used before words that begin with a vowel sound, as in “thine eyes” or “thine ears.” It is also used before words that begin with “h”, when the “h” is silent, as in “thine honor” or “thine heart.”
Like “thy,” “thine” has been largely replaced by “yours” in modern English. However, it is still used in some religious and poetic contexts, such as in the hymn “Thine Be the Glory.”
The Use of “Thy” and “Thine” in Literature and Poetry
Due to their archaic nature, both “thy” and “thine” are often used in literature and poetry to create a sense of formality or familiarity. For example, in Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet,” the titular character uses “thy” and “thine” when addressing his close friend Horatio.
“Give me that man
That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him
In my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of heart,
As I do thee…,
My hour is almost come
When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.” (Act 1, Scene 4)
In these lines, “thy” and “thee” are used to convey Hamlet’s deep affection and familiarity towards Horatio.
“Thy” and “Thine” in Modern English
Though “thy” and “thine” have largely fallen out of use in modern English, there are some contexts where they are still employed. For example, in religious or historical contexts, they may be used to create a sense of formality or reverence.
Additionally, writers may sometimes use “thy” or “thine” in their work to achieve a particular tone or evoke a sense of nostalgia. In creative writing or poetry, the use of these archaic pronouns can create a sense of timelessness or a historical setting.
While the archaic second-person singular pronouns “thy” and “thine” are not commonly used in modern English, understanding their subtle differences can help writers create a particular tone or evoke a sense of formality or familiarity. The possessive nature of these pronouns can also help to show ownership or connect two ideas. Though these pronouns may be less commonly used in everyday conversation, they still hold an important place in literature and poetry.