Pronouns are the most commonly used words to designate the people we're talking to or about. In fiction, they can also be an easy shorthand to showcase a characters' personality or his relationship with other characters, through the use of specific pronouns to refer to themself or others.
In European languages there are often two pronouns for second person (normal and polite "you", for example "tu/vous" in French or "tu/voi" in Italian) and three for third person (masculine, feminine, object/impersonal). So for example, a character can use the familiar "you" where the polite form would be expected to show that they are rude or not familiar with social norms. The misuse can also be deliberately offensive, out of sheer hostility or rebelliousness.
Other languages have more options. East-Asian languages tend to have a variety of first- and second-person pronouns depending on character, social status, context, level of politeness, etc — Japanese has an especially large variety. Thus, the pronouns used will give us an immediate glimpse of the kind of person a character is — especially if it isn't the one you would assume at first glance — and what kind of relationship they have with others.
This can be a headache for translators, as these kinds of subtleties don't always translate very well from one language to another. See Pronoun Trouble and Gender Vocabulary Slip for classic occurrences.
- Digimon Adventure: In the original Japense, Apocalymon uses wareware, "we", to refer to himself, as he's made up of the remains of all the Digimon who had failed to evolve and passed away. This is removed in the American dub, where he uses the singular "I".
- Rurouni Kenshin: In the English translation, Kenshin always refers to himself in third person as "this one" (a Woolseyism of the Japanese verb de gozaru, signifying humility). However, when his Superpowered Evil Side Hitokiri Battousai takes over, he shifts to first person.
- Venom: Eddie Brock is the most known and longer host of the symbiote and the relationship of both is more like two different beings coexisting instead of one possessing the other, noticed when this is the only incarnation that speaks in "we" instead "I" included the comeback of Eddie Brock at the end of Vol. 3 with the famous "We're back◊" and the restart of Vol. 1 in 2017. Also noticed in his other appearances, specially Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes, where he introduces in the game with this Catchphrase:
Venom: [in his intro] We are Venom!
- In Angel and the Badman, the Quakers all use "thee" when speaking to acquaintances; the use of "you" is reserved for close friends... "and between lovers, of course."
- Venom (2018): Being more based on comic books than his previous appearance, the new incarnation of the Venom symbiote maintains the "we" instead of "I" as in the comics, as well the famous "We are Venom".
- 20 Years After: Mousqueton asks d'Artagnan to refer to him as Mouston as the former is a clear indication that he was in the army as opposed to the Number Two of an obscenely rich landlord. D'Artagnan agrees and even throws in that he'll use "vous" from then on, as he's aware that Mousqueton is perfectly happy being Porthos' housekeeper but needs them to join him on a dangerous mission.
- The Divine Comedy: In Paradiso, Saint Bernard's final speech manages to refer to the Virgin Mary with Italian's informal second-person pronoun (tu, te, ti, tuo, tua) seventeen different times, due to the Christian tradition of speaking to God and the Virgin using the phrasing one would use for one's own parents. The saint is introduced higher than other being and makes an intimate plea to an old widow he loves as his own mother. Through this child-like relationship with the Queen of the Universe, the protagonist is given the grace to see the Trinity in all its perfection, all because Bernard learned to call Mary tu.
- Incarnations of Immortality: In For Love of Evil, Lilith starts using capitalized pronouns when referring to Parry after he assumes the office of Satan (the capital indicating reverence), although the author doesn't explain how this is apparent in spoken language.
- The Lord of the Rings: Eowyn uses the archaic "thou/thee" to address others, which goes with the slightly outdated kind of speech the Rohirrim are supposed to speak. In fact, Antiquated Linguistics is common outside the Shire, moreso as you move east and especially south — so the hobbits' failure to distinguish between the formal and informal forms of "you" (as Modern English also does not) confuses the people of Rohan and Minas Tirith into thinking they must be very high-ranking nobles indeed, if they can get away with talking to Gandalf like that.
- Characters always use second-person you (vous) yet refer to each other by first names (even among best friends and married couples), sometimes adding their title first, to contrast the formality of speech and the insults and Passive-Aggressive Kombat that usually follow.
- Elias the Treacherous addresses Arthur with first-person you as a mark of disrespect, being an extremely powerful mage.
- Cyrano de Bergerac: One of Cyrano's admirers makes the mistake of using "tu" with Cyrano when they barely know each other and is quickly rebuked.
- In Mass Effect, the Hanar consider it rude to refer to themselves in the first person. Therefore, they often refer to themselves as "this one".
- Undertale: The Japanese translation uses pronouns to emphasize the characters' personalities:
- Flowey uses the non-threatening "boku" and "kimi" because he hides his murderous intentions behind a happy mask. However, he will address you with the harsher "omae" when you piss him off enough.
- The Hot-Blooded Undyne uses the haughty "kisama" for the player character because of her disdain for humans.
- Sans usually addresses the player character as the familiar "anta" when he's being goofy, but switches to "omae" when he needs to be intimidating. He refers to himself as "oira", which is usually associated with bumpkin types, which Sans isn't. However, it fits his character on a meta level: It also shows how Sans tries to project a loser-ish, slacker image. During the "Lost Souls" fight and segments before he fights you on the worst route, he switches to "ore"..
- Papyrus refers to himself as "ore-sama" (i.e. adding an honorific to the pronoun) because of his massive ego.
- In Overwatch, Omnics (sapient robots, who rebelled and started a Robot War in the backstory and are an oppressed minority in the present) use different gender pronouns to help drive home the fact that they're essentially on the same level as humans. Zenyatta and Orisa go by "he" and "she" respectively, Bastion (who was churned out as a Mecha-Mook in the aforementioned war, but gained full sapience after being offline for decades) goes by it or a gender neutral "he", and the non-playable Lynx17 uses "they" (with Word of God clarifying that they identify as non-binary).
- Umineko: When They Cry:
- Yasu is a complex example, as she has created multiple personas and thus has various incarnations in the story, each using a different pronoun. As herself and as the servant Shannon, she uses "watashi", the normal female pronoun. As Beatrice, she uses the archaic regal pronoun "warawa" to give her an elegant and haughty vibe. Kanon, the meek and gloomy boy persona, uses "boku". And as Clair in Episode 7, she uses the formal "ware" for a theatrical effect.
- Beatrice herself occasionally switches between the second person pronoun "sonata" (polite and archaic) and the rude "omae" when she drops the elegant facade.
- We Know the Devil confirms that Venus is transgender by suddenly using "she" to refer to her (when the game up until this point consistently refers to her as "he") in the Yellow and True endings.
- The Spanish language has two sets of second-person pronouns and corresponding extra sets of verb conjugations. Usted (singular) and ustedes (plural) are considered formal, for use between people who don't know each other well or whose relationship is more professional than personal, while tu and vosotros are considered informal and are used between close friends and family members (a practice that has its own verb, tutearse). Additionally, vosotros is usually only used in Castilian Spanish, the official dialect of Spain; Latin Americans use ustedes for both formal and informal plurals.
- French has two second person pronouns; tu and vous. The latter is the plural pronoun, but can also be used to politely/formally address a single person who you aren't acquainted with too well. Most of the time, it's still used as if the speaker was addressing a group of people.
- Italian uses a system largely similar to French: the informal "tu" (singular) is used for people with whom one is closely acquainted, whereas in formal situations or when addressing a superior, elder or stranger the formal "voi" is used instead. Since "voi" is also the plural of "tu", sentences in which it is used are also structured as if the speaker was talking to multiple people. A complication arises from the fact that Italian has a second formal pronoun used interchangeably with "voi" — "lei", the third-person feminine pronoun, used as such because most Italian honorifics are feminine. Standard Italian technically requires the use of "lei", but most dialects use equivalents to "voi" and most people tend to use that as well. The result can sometimes be an odd system of three honorifics, where "tu" is used in informal situations, "voi" in mildly formal settings where strict adherence to grammar is not expected, and "lei" when one is particularly worried about making a good impression.
- Archaic English had a distinction between "you", used in formal circumstances, and "thou", used to express intimacy and more rarely to address people perceived as not meriting respect. Deliberate use of one pronoun over the other was sometimes used for rhetorical effect: for instance, when Sir Walter Raleigh was being tried for treason in 1603, his prosecutor Sir Edward Coke (possibly apocryphally) tried to insult him by declaring that "I thou thee, thou traitor!". Also worthy of note is the use of "thou", rather than "you", when addressing God in prayer, to convey a tone both of reverence and of closeness between the worshipper and God.
- Some dialects of English above the Mersey use the possessive plural pronoun "our" as a singular to refer to close family/friends.