Latin personal pronouns can be confusing, but don’t worry. In this post I will explain what they are, how to use them, and more!
Before we go any further, let’s get something out of the way. There are many different kinds of pronouns, in both Latin and English. This post is focused specifically on personal pronouns.
Personal pronouns correspond to the three grammatical persons – first, second, and third. “I” and “we” are first person pronouns, “you” is a second person pronoun, and “he”, “she”, “it”, and “they” are third person pronouns.
(Do you need a refresher on this topic? Then head over to my post on grammatical person and number.)
We can make a chart to represent the personal pronoun options in English.
|Second Person||you||you (y’all)|
|Third Person||he, she, it||they|
You use personal pronouns all the time when you speak English. You just might not have realized it until now!
What are the Latin personal pronouns?
Latin pronouns, just like English, express person and number. We can make another chart for Latin personal pronouns.
|Third Person||is, ea, id||eī, eae, ea|
Now here’s the thing. Latin is an inflected language, which means that it has cases. To be exact, it has seven cases, but we only need to worry about five of them here.
Each personal pronoun has forms for all five cases. When you learn the personal pronouns, you have to memorize all these case forms.
Cases are used exactly the same way for pronouns as they are for nouns. The nominative expresses the subject, the accusative is for the direct object, etc. The exception is the genitive, which works a little differently with first and second person pronouns. I will discuss this more below.
READ NEXT: Latin Cases for Beginners
In the following sections, I list the declensions of the different personal pronouns. I also give lots of example sentences, so you can get an idea of how each pronoun is used.
First Person Personal Pronouns in Latin
The first person pronouns in Latin are ego (“I”) and nōs (“we”). Here is the full declension.
NOTE: Ego and nōs can be either masculine or feminine – it depends on the gender of the speaker.
Let’s look at some examples of these pronouns in action, and then I will discuss a few peculiarities of ego and nōs.
Ego nōn veniam! = I will not come!
Nōs fābulam nārrāmus, tū nōn. = We are telling the story, not you.
Pars meī in Italiā manet. = Part of me remains in Italy. (partitive)
Timor nostrī rēgem cēpit. = Fear of us seized the king. (objective)
Turba nostrum in casā sedet. = A crowd of us sits in the house. (partitive)
Amīcus mihi dōnum dedit. = My friend gave a gift to me.
Nōbīs in silvā ambulāre iūcundum est. = For us to walk in the forest is pleasant.
Cūr mē nōn vocāvistī? = Why did you not call me?
Agricola nōs in agrōs mittit. = The farmer sends us into the fields.
Nauta sine mē īre potest. = The sailor can go without me.
Vēritātem dē nōbīs dīcent. = They will tell the truth about us.
Now you have seen examples of ego and nōs used in all five cases. But there are a few things we need to address.
The Genitive of Ego and Nōs
You may be wondering: what’s up with the genitive? Why are there two forms for nōs?
First of all, the genitive of first person pronouns is not a possessive. Meī means “of me”, NOT “my.” Nostrī and nostrum mean “of us”, NOT “our.”
Possession is the most common use of the genitive, but it is not the only one. As you can read about in my post on the genitive case, there are other options such as the objective genitive and the partitive genitive.
If you aren’t quite sure what these uses of the genitive are, then definitely go read about them next. But for the time being, here are some more examples of the genitive in action.
pars meī = part of me
nēmō ē nostrum = no one of us
memoria meī = memory of me
odium nostrī = hatred of / for us
If you can’t use the genitive of the first person personal pronoun to express possession, how do you say “my” and “our” in Latin?
It turns out that you use the possessive adjectives meus, a, um “my, mine” and noster, nostra, nostrum “our, ours.” You can learn more about this in my post on possessive adjectives!
Mēcum and nōbīscum
This rule is quite simple. Instead of saying cum mē or cum nōbīs, Romans attach the preposition cum “with” to the end of the pronouns.
- mēcum = with me
- nōbīscum = with us
Note that this only applies to the preposition cum. Other prepositions go before the pronouns like normal.
Second Person Personal Pronouns in Latin
The second person personal pronouns in Latin are tū “you” (singular) and vōs “you” (plural). Unlike in English, Latin distinguishes between singular and plural you.
If you are talking to or about one person, use tū. If you are talking to or about two or more people, use vōs.
Various English dialects still have a separate second person plural pronoun. In the southern United States, for instance, we say “y’all” to more than one person. Other plural options are “yous” and “you guys.”
Since I am from Georgia, I translate vōs as “y’all” and I encourage my students to do so, too.
NOTE: tū and vōs can be masculine or feminine, depending on the gender of the person addressed.
Nōs fābulam nārrāmus, tū nōn. = We are telling the story, not you.
Cūr vōs vēnistis? = Why did you (y’all) come?
Memoria tuī est bona. = Memory of you is good. (objective)
Propter cūram vestrī domī maneō. = On account of care for you I stay at home. (objective)
Ūnus ē vestrum mē prōdidit. = One of you (of y’all) betrayed me. (partitive)
Vir tibi fābulam nārrābit. = The man will tell a story to you.
Nōn sunt inimīcī vōbīs. = They are not hostile to you (to y’all).
Tē amō. = I love you.
Magister vōs docēbat. = The teacher was teaching you (y’all).
Prō tē nōn pugnant. = They are not fighting for you.
Pāx vōbīscum. = Peace be with you (y’all).
The Genitive of Tū and Vōs
Just like with the genitive of first person pronouns, the genitive of second person pronouns does not indicate possession.
Tuī means “of you” and is used for the partitive and objective genitive. Vestrī “of you / y’all” is used for the objective genitive, while vestrum “of you / y’all” is used for the partitive genitive.
Remember to read my post on the genitive case if these terms are unfamiliar!
To express possession, you use possessive adjectives. Tuus, a, um is “your, yours” (singular) and vester, vestra, vestrum is “your, yours” (plural).
Tēcum and vōbīscum
As we saw above with first person pronouns, the preposition cum “with” works a bit differently with second person pronouns. We use tēcum (NOT cum tē) and vōbīscum (NOT cum vōbīs).
- tēcum = with you
- vōbīscum = with you / y’all
Third Person Personal Pronouns in Latin
Finally it is time to discuss third person personal pronouns. Fun fact: Latin technically doesn’t have third person personal pronouns. Is, ea, and id – which we usually translate as “he”, “she”, and “it” – are strictly speaking demonstrative pronouns meaning “this/that one”.
But for the sake of ease, we usually call is, ea, and id third person pronouns. And that is what I will refer to them as in this post.
Most of these endings should look familiar. Ea takes 1st declension noun endings, is takes 2nd declension masculine noun endings, and id takes 2nd declension neuter noun endings.
The exceptions are the nominative, genitive, and dative singular. The genitive singular for all three genders is eius, while the dative singular for all three genders is eī.
This means that “his”, “her,” and “its” are all the same word – as are “to/for him”, “to/for her”, and “to/for it.” It’s weird, I know. There are several other pronouns, and a few adjectives, that take these special –ius and –ī endings, too.
The context can help you decide which gender is intended fairly easily. And speaking of gender – it deserves a bit more attention.
How do you say “it” in Latin?
We usually translate is as “he”, ea as “she”, and id as “it”, but this is not always accurate. Why? Because is and ea can also mean “it.”
Remember that all Latin nouns have gender, even inanimate objects. So a table (mēnsa) is feminine, while a book (liber) is masculine and a rock (saxum) is neuter.
So if you are talking about a table and you want to say “it”, you need to use the feminine of is, ea, id. But if you are talking about a book, “it” needs to be masculine. Finally, if you say “it” and are referring to a rock, you need a form of id.
- Ea est magna. = It is big. (it = the table)
- Is est magnus. = It is big. (it = the book)
- Id est magnum. = It is big. (it = the rock)
Of course is can also refer to a male person or animal (“he”), and ea can refer to a female person or animal (“she”). The important thing is to figure out what noun the pronoun refers to based on the context.
Similarly, pay attention when you want to translate “they” or “them” into Latin. Are you talking about three books? Masculine! Three tables? Feminine! Three rocks? Neuter!
If they refers to a group of people, the gender depends on who is included in the group. If it is a group of all men, masculine (eī) is used. If the group is only women, feminine (eae) is used.
If the group is of mixed gender, it is considered masculine. Even if you have 99 women and 1 man. (Yes, the rules are sexist. It annoys me, too.)
Now let’s look at some example sentences. Pay attention to the gender of the pronouns and what nouns they stand for.
Example Sentences with is, ea, id
Trēs hōrās agricolam exspectāvimus, sed is nōn vēnit. = We waited for the farmer for three hours, but he did not arrive. (masculine singular)
Vidēsne illās fēminās? Eae sunt altae. = Do you see those women? They are tall. (feminine pural)
Rēgīna est laeta, quod fīlia eius librum scrīpsit. = The queen is happy because her daughter wrote a book. (feminine singular)
Marcum nōn vīdī, sed dōnum patrī eius dedī. = I did not see Marcus, but I gave the gift to his father. (masculine singular)
Amīca mea habitat in silvīs, sed eī nōn placet. = My friend lives in the woods, but she doesn’t like it (literally: it is not pleasing to her). (feminine singular)
Canēs sunt in casā. Quis eīs portam aperuit? = The dogs are in the house. Who opened the door for them? (masculine plural)
Quis est ille vir? Eum nōn cognōscō. = Who is that man? I don’t know him. (masculine singular)
Ubi est sella? Eam nōn videō. = Where is the chair? I don’t see it. (feminine singular)
Saxa sunt magna et ea portāre nōn possum. = The rocks are big and I cannot carry them. (neuter plural)
Magister eōs docēbat. = The teacher was teaching them. (masculine plural)
Marcus est inimīcus. Cūr cum eō ambulās? = Marcus is an enemy. Why are you walking with him? (masculine singular)
Dē eō loquī nōlō. = I do not want to speak about it. (neuter singular)
Mīlitēs crās venient. In eīs est omnis nostra spēs. = The soldiers will come tomorrow. All our hope is in them. (masculine plural)
The Genitive of Is, ea, id
Unlike with first and second personal pronouns, we can use eius and eōrum / eārum to express possession. Eius canis means “his / her dog”, while liber eōrum means “their book.”
We can also use eius, eōrum, and eārum for objective and partitive genitive functions.
How and When To Use Latin Personal Pronouns
Throughout this post I have given many examples of the Latin personal pronouns in sentences. The big thing to remember is this: pronouns replace nouns.
If we didn’t have pronouns, our speech would sound quite repetitive. Think about the following paragraph.
Mary is happy because Mary lives in a beautiful city. Mary plays with Mary’s friends every day.
It sounds odd, right? “Mary” is used too many times. To avoid this redundancy, we use pronouns like “she.” Instead of saying “Mary” over and over, we insert the appropriate pronouns.
Mary is happy because she lives in a beautiful city. She plays with her friends every day.
Pronouns serve the same function in Latin as they do in English. And since pronouns replace nouns, it makes sense that they have case, number, and gender just like Latin nouns do.
But here’s the thing: in Latin we usually do not need to use the nominative form of the personal pronouns. This is because the subject of the verb is included in the verb’s ending.
If someone says videō, you know from the –ō that this means “I see”. You do not need to add ego, since the verb itself already contains this information.
If you say ego videō, the ego is emphatic. “I see!” Similarly, tū vidēs is “you see”, with an emphasis on the “you.” The same applies for third person pronouns.
For this reason, most of the personal pronouns you see will be in the genitive, dative, accusative, or ablative.
How To Memorize Latin Personal Pronouns
Now you know all about Latin personal pronouns. But how do you memorize the forms? I have two main suggestions.
First, pay attention to similarities in case endings. Notice that the forms of tū and vōs resemble the forms of ego and nōs (but with some consonant changes and other adjustments).
We have tē instead of mē, vōs and vōbīs instead of nōs and nōbīs, etc. These similar patterns can help you as you memorize the personal pronoun declensions.
As for the third person pronouns, in the plural they follow first and second declension noun endings. So if you know your first and second declension nouns, these ends should look familiar.
My other suggestion is to recite or sing the personal pronouns out loud to yourself. Don’t just practice writing out the declensions – make sure you are interacting with them orally, too.
Here is a weird, but potentially helpful, YouTube video of a Latin teacher singing 1st and 2nd person pronouns to his students.
And here’s a video by the same teacher about is, ea, id.
The videos are a bit weird, but they work. I played them for my Latin students the other day and as I was trying to fall asleep that night, the pronoun song echoed in my head.
Whew, that was a long post. If you made it all the way through, good job! I wish you all the best in your study of personal pronouns. Here are some other Latin posts that might prove helpful: