King James Bible

Mind Your T’s & Y’s: Understanding King James Pronouns


Pastor Hammond

Living according to “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4) requires that we make an effort to learn to understand every word of scripture.  Yet, any honest pastor will admit that the Elizabethan-era English of our King James Bible can be challenging. One of the first challenges that we face is the so-called Elizabethan pronouns, i.e. thou, thee, thy, thine, ye, and you.

It is fair to ask if these “old fashioned” pronouns really matter – especially given that most modern Bible versions have replaced them with simpler, more familiar words.  For example, modern translations typically replace “ye” with “you.”  While that change may seem reasonable, readers must understand that dropping the use of the Elizabethan pronouns necessarily obscures the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew words that underlie our English translation.  In fact, when translators change “ye” to “you,” they are necessarily changing God’s words!

Let’s take a closer look at the issue.   Recall that the New Testament is translated from Greek.  Biblical Greek differentiates between singular pronouns that refer to one person (thou, thee, thine) and plural pronouns that refer to multiple people (you, ye). Biblical Greek also differentiates between pronouns that serve as subjects and objects in a sentence.  Unfortunately, modern English no longer maintains a system of pronouns that bear the same level of precision.  Fortunately, however, the Elizabethan English of our King James Bible utilizes a system of pronouns that perfectly reflects the precision of the original Greek. 

You may be wondering if this level of grammatical precision is actually important.  Consider the King James translation of John 3:7.  There, Jesus said, "Marvel not that I said unto thee (singular, object form), ye (plural, subject form) must be born again."  The use of these precise pronouns in our  King James translation makes it clear that, while Jesus was speaking to one man (Nicodemus), his message was that all people must be born again.  However, the New International Version (NIV) obscures the fact that all must be born again; It translates  John 3:7 as “You should not be surprised at my saying, You must be born again.”  Because the NIV says "You must be born again," a modern reader would not likely understand that Jesus was actually telling Nicodemus that all people must be born again. 

Similar distinctions are made in the Biblical Hebrew underlying our King James Old Testament. Consider Exodus 4:15:  "And thou (2nd person singular, subject form) shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy (2nd-person singular,  possessive form) mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you (plural, object form) what ye (plural, subject form) shall do" (KJV).

One commentator notes that, in the above verse, we see the pronouns "thou," "thy," "you," and "ye," all fulfilling a specific grammatical function.  Modern translations are more likely to read:  "You shall speak to him ...and I will be with your mouth,... and will teach you what you shall do."  In choosing to simplify the translation, they obscure the precision and clarity of the underlying Hebrew words.  However, our King James Bible makes it clear that the LORD told Moses that he (Moses) was to speak to Aaron, and that He (the LORD) would then teach both of them (not just Moses) what they were to do.

Ok, so how can I remember the meaning of each pronoun?

Here’s a simple rule:  In our King James bible, pronouns that begin with “T” are always singular (i.e. they refer to one person); Pronouns that begin with “Y” are always plural (i.e. they refer to multiple people).   Someone observed that a helpful way to remember this rule is that “t” resembles one "stick" whereas “y” pictures two (or more) sticks stacked together.  

Going a step further:  Biblical Greek also uses different forms of pronouns to identify subjects and objects in a sentence.  Recall that, in a sentence, a subject is the person who is performing an action.  The object is a person or thing that is receiving action.  Consider this sentence:   “Mary is feeding the baby.”   “Mary” is the subject, i.e. the one performing the action.   “Baby” is the object, i.e. the one upon whom the action is being performed.  

Praise God for our Authorized King James Bible – an accurate translation of God’s preserved words.

A Helpful Chart of King James Bible Pronouns: 

  1. “T” pronouns are singular (and always 2nd person)

    1. Thou = subject form

    2. Thee = object form

    3. “Thy” & “Thine” show possession

  2. Y” pronouns are plural (and always 2nd-person)

    1. Ye = Subject form (performs action)

    2. You = object form (received action) Remember: If someone offers you an I-O-U, you expect to receive something. (IOU ~ YOU)

    3. Your(s)” shows possession

Remember:  "T" pronouns are always singular. "Y" pronouns are always plural.

Want to learn more?  


Why we still use the King James Bible at Long Hill Baptist Church.

Pastor Robert Hammond


At Long Hill Baptist Church, we praise God for equipping us with His words! We're aware that the debate around Bible versions has, at times, been less than gracious.  Our desire is to graciously communicate the rationale for a our decision to make exclusive use of the King James Bible.   We recognize at least four key reasons for using the King James Bible:

The Kings James Bible is an accurate translation of the correct version of the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament.

It uses the Hebrew and Greek texts that have been received by God’s people throughout history.  These underlying texts are commonly known as the Textus Receptus – which simply means “received text.” All of the other modern Bible translations used a different underlying Greek New Testament.    They made this decision because, during the 19th century, additional Greek manuscripts were discovered. 

The problem with those newly discovered manuscripts is that they were not consistent with each other!  Despite the inconsistencies, those newly-discovered manuscripts were judged to be “older and therefore better” than the words of God that have been traditionally received by God’s people.  Consequently, the newly-discovered manuscripts were used by academicians to produce a new version of the Greek New Testament (the so-called Critical Text). 

This is the Greek that underlies all modern translations, including the New Internal Version (NIV), New American Standard Version (NASB), New Living Translation (NLT), The Message, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), and the New Living Translation (NLT).

At Long Hill Baptist Church, we reject the notion that God could have hid his true words from his people until the 19th Century.

To do so would have made it impossible for God’s people to live according to His words – as required by Matthew 4:4.  In Matthew 4:4, Jesus taught that we are responsible to live according to his words:

“…It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4

Furthermore, the clear Biblical teaching that God promised to preserve His words obliges us to reject the idea that His true words would need to be restored by man through an academic process.  In Matthew 24:35, Jesus said that his words would never pass away.

"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35) 

In the Old Testament, the Book of Psalms teaches:

“The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.  7Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” (Psalm 12:6-7)

We recognize that some of the modern Bible versions used an undesirable approach to Bible translation.

The so-called dynamic equivalence (or paraphrase) technique was used to produce many of the modern Bible translations, including the New International Version (NIV) and the New Living Translation (NLT).  This approach to translation attempts to preserve the basic ideas of each scriptural passage – without attempting to make a word-for-word translation.  While this approach produces translations that are generally easy to understand, it necessarily denies readers access to “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4).   Thankfully, our King James Bible uses a more rigorous technique – formal equivalence.  This approach attempts to preserve the meaning of each individual word and phrase – and therefore results in a translation that is closer to the original Greek and Hebrew.

The King James Bible reflects a level of grammatical precision that can’t easily be achieved with contemporary English.

In John 3:7, Jesus told a man named Nicodemus, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”  The pronoun “ye” is the second-person plural form of “you.”  Jesus used the plural form to make it clear that all men must be “born again” by repenting and placing their faith in him alone.  He desired for people to understand that it wasn’t just Nicodemus that needed to be born again.  However, most modern translations read, “You must be born again.”  By choosing to use more contemporary English, modern translations cloud the true meaning of the words that Christ spoke.

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How Can I Understand the Bible?

Pastor Hammond 

Christians frequently report difficulty understanding the word of God.  To be fair, the Bible is sometimes difficult to understand.  Even Peter observed that Paul's writings are sometimes "hard to be understood."  (2 Peter 3:16).  So, how can we grow our understanding?  

Consider these points:

First, be certain that you genuinely know the author!  Unless you have repented and placed your faith in Christ alone for salvation, you cannot progress in your understanding of God's words.  In 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul wrote,  "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."  The Bible plainly states that is possible to know if you have eternal life.  In 1 John 5:13, John wrote, "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."  If you're uncertain about your salvation, learn more here.

Second, recognize that believers don't have to lean on their own faculties alone to understand God's words.  Recall that in John 14:26, Jesus said, "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."  If you know Christ as your savior, you've been indwelt by the Holy Spirit -- the same Spirit who inspired the words that we seek to understand!   He is the one who aids our understanding.    Pray and ask the LORD to guide your understanding of His words.

Third, understand that the Lord does not intend for us to read Scripture as we read other materials.    Rather, He intends for us to wrestle with His words and to meditate upon them.  In Psalm 119:148, the psalmist wrote, "Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word." We're called to give time to the words of God.   

Fourth, recognize the importance of your local church in building your understanding of God's words.  The LORD calls Christians to be baptized into a local church where we can be taught by those who have been gifted by the Holy Spirit to teach.  What a privilege it is to be under the teaching of one who is gifted by the LORD to aide our understanding of His words.  Never forget that Bible teaches that your local church is the "pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).  If you want to understand God's words, you'll need to spend time in God's place of study.

Fifth, recognize the critical importance of a proper approach to personal Bible study.  Believers should rely on careful, Spirit-led study of God’s words to guide their understanding.  Commentaries, study Bibles and other tools are often helpful.  However, the bulk of our study time should be spent with the actual Bible text.  Personal study will be greatly aided by an understanding of several basic principals.  We rely on the so-called Grammatical-Historical Method to interpreting Scripture.  Essentially, this method seeks guide us to an accurate understanding of what scripture actually says – rather than interpretations that aren’t directly supported by the grammar and historical context of the text.  We seek to uncover the original intent of the inspired Biblical writers.  Take time to learn some basic principals of Bible interpretation (hermeneutics).

Please read this short article that provides an overview of several principals for interpreting God's words.  Read now

And don't forget:  If you want to understand the words of God, you must spend time in the words of God!