Scots Learners’ Grammar

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5. Pronouns


5.1 Personal pronouns

Scots is sometimes said to have both unemphatic forms and emphatic forms of personal pronouns, though actual use is inconsistent. The emphatic forms are given in [square brackets] in the text below and usually correspond to the English equivalent.

This is a useful distinction. A telt ye, I telt ye, A telt you and I telt you all have different emphases which would be expressed in English by stress if spoken or putting in italics/bold if written. The concept that English-like linguistic forms are more assertive or emphatic is an interesting theme and you often hear Scots speakers code switch into English for effect e.g. A told you tae dae it.

Subject (nominative)

A [Ah/I]ye [you, ye in Ulster Scots]he/she/it [he/she/hit]

we [we]

ye(z)/youse [you]

they [they]

The ‘I’ form seems to cause problems in orthography. Scots pronounce it A, Ah (a bit longer), Eh (distinctive of Dundee) as well as Ay (the usual English way). Personally I write A, leaving Ah and I for emphasis.

In West central dialects ye has distinct plural yiz [youse], a possible import from Ireland. This is so useful it seems to be becoming a standard, replacing the ye [you] plural

Whit’re yez daein the nicht? What are you (all) doing tonight?

An informal American English equivalent would be ‘y’all’ or ‘you guys’. Further emphasis can be provided by you(se) yins.

Nowadays Scots, like English, largely lacks a familiar form of you, but tou [thou] survived on the mainland until this century, but is now only used in Orkney (thoo) and Shetland (du) with the verb in the s/he form.

Note that when combining A with another pronouns, the object forms are used and the I equivalent is usually placed first.. A’m no comin but Me an her isna comin (She and I are not coming).

When using it with subject pronouns, order is different from standard English e.g. Gie hir it (Give it to her), Did ye tell him it (Did you tell it to him?).

The pronoun often appears in an elided (short) form; Gie’s it (give it to me), By ma wey o’t (In my opinion), He tellt hir’t (He told it to her).

There is no Scots equivalent to the English neutral pronoun ‘one’, and in Scots neutrality is represented by ye or they.

Object (accusative)

me [me]ye [you]him/her/it [him/hir/hit]

us [huz]

ye [you/youse]

thaim [thaim] (but the unstressed form is usually pronounced thum).

The us form is often used colloquially in the first person

See’s thon buik (Pass me that book over there)

Gie’s a poond (Give me a pound), Come wi’s (Come with me)

Thaim that is the eqivalent to the English ‘those that’

Therr wark for thaim that want it   There’s work for those that want it

Note Is that you? Ay, that’s me means ‘Are you ready/finished ? Yes I’m ready’.

See can be used to emphasise any object pronoun; See him, he’s a daftie, See us, we’re brilliant.

Posessives (My one, your one etc)

The ‘nominal’ possessive pronouns are

minesyourshis/hers

oors/wirs

theirs

Thus thon buik’s mines, it’s no yours. My, your etc is in the adjectives section.

For emphasis use my ane(s), your ane(s) etc.

Reflexive pronouns

The ‘nominal’ reflexive pronouns are

maselyerselhimsel [hissel], hersel, itssel [hitsel]

oorsel/wirsel

yersel or the sel o ye

thaimsel/theirsel.

The plurals alternatively take -s ie wirsels.

Me and ye can replace masel and yersel.

A bocht me a new caur the day  I bought myself a new car today)

Sit ye doon! .Sit (yourself) down

Some more idioms:

Yer twa sels ..Both of you

He did it aw his ain sel  He did it all by himself

Ye missed yersel at the pairtie  You missed a good party

A’v aften seen masel getting tae the office at seeven ¼form often used when telling a story

Himsel/hersel often implies an important person at home or a t work ie a boss, husband or wife

Whan hersel hears yon, therr’ll be a stushie ..When the boss/wife hears that there’ll be trouble)

English ‘alone’ is translated as his/her/their etc lane

We gaed wir lane..We went by ourselves

Is thon lass by her lane?   Is that girl alone?)

Itsel is the equivalent of ‘by itself’.

Relative pronouns

The relative pronoun (English which, who etc) is simply that or at, depending on the dialect and sometimes it is omitted as in English. The bairns that brak the windae, The mannie A ken…

When English ‘whose’ is a relative pronoun, it is not, as you might expect, whase in Scots, but that plus a possessive

The man that his siller wis tint  The man whose money was lost

In speech this is contracted to that’s for all pronouns.

The bairn that’s breeks wis tore  The child whose trousers were torn)

Wha is normally only used as part of a question, so Burns’ Scots wha hae is stirring but nowadays ungrammatical! Scots that haes is the modern form.

Interrogative pronouns

The interrogative pronouns are all different in form from English, but used similarly to their equivalents.

hoo  how or whywha e  ‘who’ as well as ‘whom’whan  when

whase  whose

whaur  where

whauraboots  whereabouts

whitna  which, what kind of

whit  ‘what’ or ‘which’whit ane/yin  whichwhit wey or hoo or whit for  why, for what reason

hooaboots  how

whit like  what sort of

hoo me?  why me?

Whase is is often replaced by wha belangs.

Wha belangs thon hoose?  Whose house is that?

As we have seen above when English ‘whose’ is a relative pronoun, it is that plus a possessive.

Whit is generally used where ‘which’ would be expected in English

Whit wey noo? .Which way now?

Whit yin/ane d’ye want? .Which one do you want

There are several other idioms using whit/

Whit bonnie! How pretty!

Whit for no? Why not?

Whit’s he greetin/roarin at?  Why is he crying/shouting

Whit a fowk!  What a lot of people!

Whit age are ye? How old are you?

Whit wecht is it? How heavy is it?

In children’s speech especially the tag Eh? (see below) can be used as an interrogative;

Eh, ye’v got a new bike? Do you have a new bike?

A distinctive feature of the North- East dialect of Scots is that the wh sound is replaced by f (so foo, fa, fit etc Fit like? is ‘How are you?’).

There are several other dialectical variants for example what (to rhyme with ‘cat) instead if whit.

Question tags

These usually operate in a similar positive/negative way to English; He’s no gaun, is he?

However negative tags can have a distinct Scots form

He’s on the buroo, is he no? (with rising intonation).

Compare to the English-like form He’s on the buroo, i(s)n’t he? (with falling intonation).

A neutral tag Eh? which can be either positive or negative is also very common He’s on the buroo, eh? and He isna on the buroo, eh?

A negative tag eh no? can also be used here. There is an analogy with a very similar informal positive tag common in Flemish/Dutch.

The colloquial urban Glasgow tag int (isn’t) as in It’s awfie faur int it? is thought to be a fairly recent innovation or perhaps import.

Indefinite pronouns

In Scots these are

a bodie  someone, somebodyawbodie  everyone, everybodyawthin  everything

naebodie  no one, nobody

naethin or nocht  nothing

oniebodie  anyone, anybodie

oniethin or ocht  anything

sumhin/sumthin  something

nane  none.

English ‘one’ could be ane (often pronounced ‘an’) but is more characteristically a bodie e.g. Gin a bodie meet a bodie. Also ‘ilkane or ilka ane (each one), onie ither bodie (anyone else), nae ithir bodie (no one else). Yin is also a common way of expressing the English ‘one’ in West Central dialects; the big yin, thon yins, yin thing aifter anithir. As in English ye is an impersonal pronoun: ye niver can tell.