Lesson 3 – Pronouns: How to say I, me, and you

A pronoun is a word used to point towards someone or something, without using its name. Examples of English pronouns are I, me, you, they and it. English has a relatively small amount of pronouns compared to most languages, including Lower Arrernte. English only has pronouns that refer to one (I, you, him/her) or many (we, you all, they). Lower Arrernte has equivalents to all these English pronouns, but also has pronouns that let you refer to two people (you and I, you two, those two).


Lower Arrernte also has different pronouns that change depending on which role they represent within the sentence. This can get very confusing, so in this lesson, we will just focus on the pronouns that refer to one person at a time: I, me, you, he/she/it and him/her/it.


Below is a list of singular pronouns in Lower Arrernte with example sentences. Have a listen to the examples, and try to say them slowly yourself.

Lower Arrernte
athe untenhe uteme
I am hitting you
yenge ahentyiweme
I am breathing
unte reke Arrkwetye Akapertenhe?
Did you see Arrkwetye Akaperte?
ange petyerne
you just came (here)
ile ngkanem-aneme
he/she/it is talking now

Next, have a look at the list and see if you notice anything about English vs Lower Arrernte pronouns.
Is there the same amount of English and Lower Arrernte singular pronouns?
Do you notice any similarities or patterns in the Lower Arrernte pronouns?
What do you think the difference is between athe and yenge?

Understanding which I and which you to use

Maybe in the above sentences you noticed that there are more Arrernte pronouns than we have in English. In English, we have two different pronouns that refer to oneself: I and me. There are rules about where we can put these in a sentence. We can say: ‘I see you’ or ‘you see me’, but we can’t say ‘you see I’ or ‘me see you’. In English, ‘I’ can only occur before the verb, and ‘me’ can only occur after the verb. Lower Arrernte has two words for ‘I’, athe and yenge, and one word for ‘me’, yengenhe. Now the first tricky part is distinguishing whether to use athe or yenge in your sentence.
Take a look at the following groups of sentences:

I sleep.

I sneezed.

I sit.


I kicked the ball.

I love dogs.

I make lunch.

What is the difference between the first three and the second three sentences? The first three sentences do not have an orange word (an object) after the green word (the verb). In fact, it is impossible for them to have one. You can’t ‘sleep the ball’ or ‘sit the lunch’. You can’t sleep anything for that matter. In Lower Arrernte, the first three, the sentences with no object, would use the pronoun yenge. The second three, the sentences that do have an object, would use athe. You can also think of athe as being the ‘doer’ or ‘actor’ of the sentence. Athe does something that affects the object.


Here are some example sentences in Lower Arrernte. You may notice that the order of the words is different in Lower Arrernte to English.

yenge ahentyiweme
I am breathing
yenge ngkwerre-ngkwerr-irtneme
I am coughing
athe kwatye untyeme
I am drinking water
athe ker interneme
I am smelling meat

Now that you have a grasp on where to use athe and yenge, we are going to look at the two Lower Arrernte words for ‘you’: unte and ange, which have the same rules as athe and yenge. Take a look at the Lower Arrernte examples below:

ange ingkerne petyerne
you came behind
ange ingwenthe petyay
you come tomorrow
ange ntetye?
are you sick?
vengenh unte aweme?
are you understanding me ?
unte Arrernte aweme?
do you understand Arrernte?
unte yengenhe arnangileme?
you are annoying me

Finally, note that there is only one word for ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘it’ in Lower Arrernte: ile. Ile does not change depending on the gender of the person it refers to like it does in English. It is always ile, no matter who or what you are talking about. Ile also doesn’t have two forms depending on its role in the sentence like yenge/athe and ange/unte. In the two examples below, you can see that it can either occur with or without an orange word (an object).

ile ngkanem-aneme
He/she/it is talking now
yengenhe ile raneme
He/she/it is watching me

What about me and him/her/it?

Remember how we talked about different roles in the sentence above? In English, we can use either I or me to refer to the same thing. The difference is where it happens in the sentence. You can’t say ‘me like pizza’ or ‘he hit I’. Pronouns like me, him and her in English can only happen after the action word (the verb). This is called the object position, and in all of the examples above, it has been coloured orange. Things in the object position are affected by whoever is doing the action. For example:


She pushed me.

I touched him.


Now in English, there is no different object word for ‘you’. We just use ‘you’ in both roles.


You like me.

I like you


But in Lower Arrernte, there is a different word for object ‘you’: angenhe.

Below is a list of Lower Arrernte object pronouns and examples. Have a listen to the examples, and try to say them slowly yourself.

arelhele yengenhe impeke
she left me
lekere thele angenhe akarlkweke ?
which dog bit you ?
Ikernante athe ilunhe reke
I never saw her

Below is a full table of all Lower Arrernte pronouns.

Lower Arrernte
athe / yenge
unte / ange
you and I
untatherre / angatherre
you two
they two
untareye / angareye
you lot, youse
ilunhe, ilurnenhe
you and me
you two
them two
you lot, youse
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