Originally, Chinese had no distinction for gender in the second- and third-person pronouns, and no distinction for animacy in the third-person either. In fact, in the spoken language, they remain undifferentiated. These characters were created in response to contact with the West and its gender- and animacy-indicating pronouns.
The difference between 你 and 妳 is not always maintained in writing, but the distinction between 他 and 她 is. 牠 is supposed to be used for nouns referring to animals and 它 for inanimate objects, but this distinction is sometimes blurred. In Simplified Chinese, 妳 and 牠 are both antiquated.
The collective pronouns are formed by simply adding 们 / 們 ''mén'' to the end of each pronoun; thus, 你们, 我们, 咱们, 他/她/牠/它们 or 你們, 我們, 他/她/牠/它們 would mean "you ", "we" and "they" respectively.
The pronoun 您 ''nín'' is used as a formal version of the second person pronoun, but does not have a feminine variant, and is not used in the plural.
The pronouns 俺 and 偶 are often used in Mandarin to mean "I". They are of dialectal origins, once spoken by the stereotypical country-side commoner. However, their usage is gaining popularity among the young, most notably in online communications.
There exist many more pronouns in Classical Chinese and in literary works, including 汝 or 爾 for "you", and 吾 for "I" . The pronouns listed above are the most common in colloquial speech.
The possessive pronoun
To indicate possession 的 is appended to the pronoun. In literature or in some daily phrases this is often omitted, e.g. 我妈/我媽 ; is a synonym for 我的妈妈/我的媽媽 . For old generations, 令 is the equivalent modern form 您的 , as in 令尊 "Your father." In literary style, 其 is sometimes used for "his" or "her"; e.g., 其父 means "his father" or "her father".
The reflexive pronoun
The singular personal pronouns may be made reflexive by appending 自己 ''zìjǐ'', "self".
Pronouns in imperial times and self-deprecatory
:''See also Chinese honorifics.''
In imperial times, the pronoun for "I" was commonly omitted when speaking politely or to someone with higher social status. "I" was usually replaced with special pronouns to address specific situations. Examples include 寡人 ''guǎrén'' during and 朕 ''zhèn'' after the Qin dynasty when the is speaking to his subjects. When the subjects speak to the Emperor, they address themselves as 臣, or "your official". It is extremely impolite and taboo to address the Emperor as "you" or to address oneself as "I".
In modern times, the practice of self-deprecatory terms is still used. In résumés, the term 贵/貴 is used for "you" and "your"; e.g., 贵公司/貴公司 refers to "your company". 本人 is used to refer to oneself.
Inclusive and exclusive first-person plural
In Chinese, for the first-person plural there are usually two forms, the inclusive and exclusive we:
*咱们 / 咱們 ''zánmen'' — the inclusive
*我们 / 我們 ''wǒmen'' — the exclusive .
This distinction is not rigorously maintained by many speakers outside of the Beijing region, the tendency being to generalize the use of 我们 / 我們.