Middle English typically adds -s or -es to plural nouns, as well as to nouns in the genitive singular: ‘And sondry vessels maad of erthe and glas’ (CY 791); ‘Housbonds at chirche-dore I have had five’ (WB 6). 

Since apostrophes are not used to show possession in Middle English, however, modern readers must rely on context to distinguish between the two: in the sentence ‘With fadres pitee stiking thurgh his herte’ (Phy 211) grammatical form alone cannot make clear whether many fathers or one father’s pity is referred to; in the sentence  ‘If by his wives chere he mighte see’ (Cl 599) it is unclear whether many wives or one wife’s ‘chere’ is referred to. 

Nouns ending in -t are often written with the plural ending -z: ‘Upon the tormentz of this sory place’ (Sum 1701), ‘Of chirche-reves, and of testamentz’ (Fri 1307), while others add –en in the plural: eyen (eyes); been (bees); toon (toes) — although it should be noted that these words also appear in Chaucer’s works with -s endings. A few nouns retain the same form in the singular and the plural, for example, ‘oon thing I thee telle’ (HF 2002) translates as ‘one thing’; while ‘of swich thing’ (Mk 2093) translates as ‘such things’. In addition, one set of plural nouns is formed by vowel mutations, in which a difference in meaning is indicated by a different pronunciation of the vowel in the stem is— many of these survive into Modern English – for example, men, mys (mice), feet, gees, teeth. There are also nouns that don’t change at all in the plural: sheep, deer, hors. The same applies to nouns following numerals in expressions of time: ‘A twelf-month’ (GP 651); ‘He was, I trowe, a twenty winter old’ (WB 600). Likewise, there are a few genitive singular nouns that do not take the -s or -es ending: among them, my fader saule (my father’s soul) (Mk 1937).  

This table shows the basic forms nouns take in Middle English:  

Stem change (mutation)mousmousesmys(mouse)
-en pluralfo, foo fon [foos](enemy)
Short vowel 
and consonant
spotspottesspottes, spotten(blemish)

Personal Pronouns 

In Middle English, pronouns are much like their Modern English counterparts, except for the third person plural genitive pronoun: hir(e) (their), and the third person plural accusative hem (them):  

SingularFirst PersonSecond PersonThird Person
NominativeI/Ichthouhe, she, hit (it) 
Genitivemy, minethy, thinehis, hire, his (its) 
Accusativeme theehim, hire, hit (it)

PluralFirst PersonSecond PersonThird Person
Genitiveoureyourhire, hir(e)

Note that ‘his’ is the genitive for both the masculine and the neuter pronoun: ‘Astonieth with his wonderful worching’ (Astonishes with its wondrous working) (PF 4-5). In Chaucer’s English, as in modern French, we tend to see singular pronouns (thee, thou, etc.) applied to children and servants, and plural pronouns (ye, you, etc.) used to address superiors. The distinction, while not consistent, can be useful for interpreting social relationships in Chaucer’s works. 

Demonstrative Pronouns

The plural form of ‘this’ is thise or these : ‘And thise ymages, wel thou mayst espye’ (SN 509). The plural form of‘that’ is tho; while thilke (‘the’ + ‘ilke’, meaning ‘the same’) remains unchanged in the singular and the plural. 

Relative Pronouns  

The relative pronouns most often found in Middle English are that and which, which are used for both people and things, so, when translating that, it can be helpful to substitute a Modern English equivalent, such as who, whom, or which. In Middle English, the word who is used as an interrogative referring to people, but it does not appear in the nominative as a relative pronoun. Another common pronoun, oother, becomes ootheres in the genitive singular, and oothere in the plural.  The prefix ther– in pronouns such as therto and therwith often refers to the subject matter of the previous phrase. Note that therto may be translated as ‘in addition to all that’ or ‘in order to achieve that’.