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First person pronouns
quickinfo

In Afrikaans first person pronouns, there is a distinction between singular and plural. The singular subject form of the first person is ek I (as in example 1a), and the object form is my me (1b).

Example 1

a. Ek wil weet wat daar aangaan.
I want.to.AUX.MOD know that.REL there on.go
I want to know what's going on there.
VivA-KPO
b. Die onderwys het my nog altyd na aan die hart gelê.
the education have.AUX me still always close to the heart lie.PST
Education has always been close to my heart.
VivA-KPO

The plural first person pronoun is ons we/us regardless of whether it is used as as subject (2a) or as an object (2b).

Example 2

a. Ons glo taalverskeidenheid is 'n hulpbron en nie 'n probleem nie.
we believe language.variety be.PRS a help.source and not a problem PTCL.NEG
We believe that linguistic variety is a resource and not a problem.
VivA-KPO
b. Jy laat ons bloei.
you.SG let us bleed
You make us bleed.
VivA-KPO
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[+]First person singular pronouns

The subject form of the first person singular pronoun in Afrikaans is ek I (3a and 3b), although an extended form ekke [ɛkə] [ɜkə] is used emphatically sometimes (Donaldson 1993:123). The extended form (3c and 3d) is used infrequently in written language, but could be more frequent in informal spoken language, such as in the pop song "Cooler as ekke" (Cooler than me) by artist Jack Parow. Example (3d) illustrates its use in the collocation arme ekke poor me which is a fixed expression conveying a mocking tone regarding self-pity.

Example 3

a. Ek is steeds in die diens van my werkgewer.
I be.PRS still in the service of my work.giver
I am still employed by my employer.
VivA-KPO
b. Dit, glo ek, is die groot en sterk argument vir Afrikaans.
it believe I be.PRS the big and strong argument for Afrikaans
This, I believe, is the big and strong argument for Afrikaans.
VivA-KPO
c. Dáái ou sal ekke wees, meneer.
that guy will I be.INF mister
That guy would be me, sir.
VivA-KPO
d. Ag shame, arme ekke het niks gekry nie, ek kan niks doen nie.
aw shame poor I have.AUX nothing get.PST PTCL.NEG I can.AUX.MOD nothing do PTCL.NEG
Aw, poor me, I didn't get anything, and I can't do anything.
VivA-KPO, adapted

The object form of the first person singular pronoun is my me, which is used when the pronoun is in the object position (4a) as well as in a prepositional phrase (PP) (4b).

Example 4

a. Dit het my gerusgestel.
it have.AUX me at.ease.put.PST
It put me at ease.
VivA-KPO, adapted
b. Wat vir my interessant is, is hoe mense soek.
that.REL for me interesting be.PRS be.PRS how people search
What's interesting for me, is how people search.
VivA-KPO
[+]First person plural pronouns

The first person plural pronoun in Afrikaans is ons we/us, whether it is used as a syntactic subject (5a), syntactic object (5b), or in a PP (5c).

Example 5

a. Ons is veral ernstig oor die bevordering van Afrikaans.
we be.PRS especially serious about the promotion of Afrikaans.
We are particularly serious about the promotion of Afrikaans.
VivA-KPO
b. Hy het gedink hy kan ons uitoorlê.
he have.AUX tink.PST he can.AUX.MOD us defeat
He thought he could defeat us.
VivA-KPO
c. Dit begin by ons.
it start by us
It starts with us.
VivA-KPO

In the use of the first person plural ons, the addressee might be included in the expression, as in (6a), but not necessarily, as in (6b), where it excludes the addressee and refers to the speaker/writer and one or more people associated with them in some way.

Example 6

a. Laat ons mekaar se hande vat, en saam oplossings vind in die gees van 'n Suid-Afrikaanse gemeenskap.
let us each.other PTCL.GEN hands take and together solutions find in the spirit of a South African community
Let us take each other's hands, and find the solution together in the spirit of a South African community.
VivA-KPO
b. Ons wil julle graag ondersteun.
we want.to.AUX.MOD you.PL gladly support
We really want to support you.
VivA-KPO

The pronoun ons can also be used with a postmodifying noun (7a) or noun phrase (NP) (7b), numeral (7c) or indefinite pronoun (7d and 7e) that identifies a particular group of which the speaker/writer is a member. Some prescriptive sources, e.g. Prinsloo and Odendal (1995:209) and Van der Merwe and Ponelis (1991:238), recommend that these constructions are used rather than partitive genitive constructions with van of such as die drie van ons the three of us, almal van ons all of us, or elkeen van ons each one of us.

Example 7

a. Ons onderdruktes het ons kinders na Engelse skole gestuur.
we oppressed.PL have.AUX our children to English schools send.PST
We oppressed sent our children to English schools.
VivA-KPO
b. Maar toe snik ons klomp mans soos ons huil...
but then sob us lot men like we cry
But then we men sobbed as we cried...
VivA-KPO
c. My kinders doen nou tuisonderrig, en ons drie is nou voltyds besig daarmee.
my children do now home.teaching and us three be.PRS now full.time busy PN.with
My children now do homeschooling, and the tree of us are now busy with that full time.
VivA-KPO
d. Tesame is ons almal die hoop van ons reënboognasie.
together be.PRS us everybody the hope of our rainbow.nation
Together, all of us are the hope of our rainbow nation.
VivA-KPO, adapted
e. Hy gooi vir ons elkeen 'n dop wat skaars die glas se bodem bedek.
he throw for us each.one a drink that.REL barely the glass PTCL.GEN bottom cover
He pours each of us a drink that barely covers the bottom of the glass.
VivA-KPO
References:
  • Donaldson, B.C1993A grammar of Afrikaans.ReeksMouton de Gruyter
  • Prinsloo, AF & Odendal, FF1995Afrikaans op sy besteVan Schaik
  • Van der Merwe, H.J.J.M. & Ponelis, F. (hers.)1982Die korrekte woord: Afrikaanse taalkwessies.Van Schaik
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