Y'all, yous, youse, plural of you

rich7

Senior Member
Venezuela español
Last edited by a moderator:
  • GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    It's an abbreviated, slang form for your all's, or yours.

    In the US southern states, Y'all is short for "you all," and is used quite frequently in conversation, such as:

    Hi, y'all.
    What're y'all doin'?
    Did y'all watch them Longhorns beat the snot out of them California pretty boys last night?

    This is an alternative spelling of same, and has the added dimension of the possessive form.

    I've not seen it spelled "y'awl" before. I sincerely wonder if this is a "misspelling" or simply a means of emphasizing the lazy drawl of "y'all's" pronunciation.

    Y'all come back now, y'here?
     

    rich7

    Senior Member
    Venezuela español
    Well, thanks for your promt reply. I dont think it's a mispelling because it's the Michael's song thriller and besides I searched it in google and there are several items with this same "Y'awl's".
     

    daviesri

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I have to agree with GenJen54 in that it is a misspelling of “Y’all”. Being from the South I have never seen it spelled with a “w”. As far as Google goes, there are many documents out there with misspelled words.
    Y’all - Results 1 - 10 of about 7,260,000 for Y'all
    Y’awl - Results 1 - 10 of about 663 for Y'awl
     

    jinti

    Senior Member
    As others have said, y'all (or as I guess we're seeing here, y'awl) is you all. It means you (plural). And the possessive form is made by adding 's, so it's y'all's (or I guess y'awl's).

    But just to make things difficult:

    I've heard y'all as a singular form as well. That makes the plural form the delightful all y'all. And that would make the plural possessive all y'all's.

    Ya gotta love it.
     

    irisheyes0583

    Senior Member
    English (USA)
    rich7 said:
    Reading Michael's songs I found it and I can not understand its meaning.
    Can you elaborate on this pls.........

    Darkness falls across the land
    The midnight hour is close at hand
    Creatures crawl in search of blood
    To terrorize y'awl's neighbourhood
    And whosoever shall be found
    Without the soul for getting down
    Must stand and face the hounds of hell
    And rot inside a corpse's shell.

    This spelling could be just to emphasize the twang in his voice as he says the word. As a Yankee displaced to Virginia, I do say "y'all", but I know that I will never say it with the twang (=strong Southern accent) found in, say, a country music song.
     

    fenixpollo

    moderator
    American English
    I agree with Irish -- the "misspelling" here is probably purposeful, to emphasize the Southern U.S. Pronunciation.

    Irony #1 -- Michael Jackson is from Gary, Indiana, not from the South.
    Irony #2 -- In the video for Thriller, this text was read with by the late, great, Missouri-born actor Vincent Price, using his Yalie-socialite (ie faux-British) accent. It sounded to me like he said "your (yoah) neighborhood."
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    You hear y'all used incorrectly in the singular all the time, and it's maddening. People who do it sound like they're affecting the use of the word, and didn't really learn it at their momma's knee.

    If Michael Jackson uses it, though, it's probably because black people speak a dialect they brought up with them-- from the South. You hear y'all in city-center slang, of course-- so it's taken root across the country, if you can describe an urban phenomenon as "across the country." I guess y'all is becoming a mass-communications word, like kewl.
    .
     

    rich7

    Senior Member
    Venezuela español
    foxfirebrand said:
    You hear y'all used incorrectly in the singular all the time, and it's maddening. People who do it sound like they're affecting the use of the word, and didn't really learn it at their momma's knee.

    If Michael Jackson uses it, though, it's probably because black people speak a dialect they brought up with them-- from the South. You hear y'all in city-center slang, of course-- so it's taken root across the country, if you can describe an urban phenomenon as "across the country." I guess y'all is becoming a mass-communications word, like kewl.
    .

    When you say this, you're meaning....What?
     

    Isotta

    Senior Member
    English
    People who do it sound like they're affecting the use of the word, and didn't really learn it at their momma's knee.

    "At their momma's knee" means as a child, as a young thing. These people are imposters because they pretend they've said it their whole life. As for why it's "knee," I suppose it denotes either sitting on their mother's lap or being small, coming up to your mother's knee. ffb chooses an interesting spelling with "momma;" I usually spell it "mama." And then "mamma" would denote 19th century England.

    I've never heard "y'all" in the singular and am having trouble imagining it. I am tickled (with glee) when people adopt the word later in life; it's terribly useful. I once knew a Scottish exchange student who began saying "y'all" after only two weeks in the South.

    Z.
     

    niall

    Senior Member
    Ireland/English
    In the uk "yous" or is used amongst the Irish community as a plural for you.

    Ay, to be sure, 'tis true!

    Yous, ye and yis are used in different parts of Ireland. The corresponding personal adjectives yeer and yiser (pronounced yizzer) are also used, not sure about youser, I don't think it is used.
     

    utente

    Senior Member
    American English
    In the American South the plural of you is "you all" or "y'all" and when I was growing up in New York City "youse" was a (vulgar) form.

    Also, Thou: the great Rodgers and Harte song, "Thou Swell" and the Coen Brothers movie, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

    --Steven
     

    Panpan

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Chaska Ñawi said:
    In fact, all we've really retained of plain speech is the use of "First Day" instead of Sunday, at least in Canadian circles.

    If you said that to a speaker of 'Estuary English' i.e. Thames valley, London and eastwards, they would think you were saying 'Thursday'.

    Panpan
     

    papillon

    Senior Member
    Russian (Ukraine)
    People from the south of US are made fun of for using the contraction
    y'all = you all.

    It occurred to me that the spread of this pronoun may signal the subconscious move by English speakers to re-establish a distinct unambiguous pronoun for 2nd person plural. I mean, the French has its tu and vous, Spanish has at least 4 different ways to address someone; the list goes on. And English? ONLY ONE! So the "Thou" thing is gone, and "you" is ambiguous when addressing a group of people in certain contexts. So... this is where "y'all" comes in; no confusion there. Y'all are going to the movies?
    Some may say, that, well, no, this is used to stress that you're addressing all of the people present. Not so. For that, there is the ever popular
    All y'all:D

    What do you think?
     

    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    It's a good theory, but the Southerners I know who say "y'all" are just as likely to use it for the singular you as for the plural.

    For the rest of us, you all, uncontracted, usually does mean "that whole group of you."
     

    jdenson

    Senior Member
    USA / English
    papillon said:
    People from the south of US are made fun of for using the contraction
    y'all = you all.

    It occurred to me that the spread of this pronoun may signal the subconscious move by English speakers to re-establish a distinct unambiguous pronoun for 2nd person plural. I mean, the French has its tu and vous, Spanish has at least 4 different ways to address someone; the list goes on. And English? ONLY ONE! So the "Thou" thing is gone, and "you" is ambiguous when addressing a group of people in certain contexts. So... this is where "y'all" comes in; no confusion there. Y'all are going to the movies?
    Some may say, that, well, no, this is used to stress that you're addressing all of the people present. Not so. For that, there is the ever popular
    All y'all:D

    What do you think?
    We southerners do love our "y'all". How could anyone make fun of such a useful word? But it's not just in the south where people think they need a second person plural; I have friends from northern climes who say "youins" and others who say "youse".
    JD
     

    daviesri

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Kelly B said:
    It's a good theory, but the Southerners I know who say "y'all" are just as likely to use it for the singular you as for the plural.

    For the rest of us, you all, uncontracted, usually does mean "that whole group of you."

    I've never used "y'all" for a singular you. I have always used it for a group situation as in "all of you".
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I'll never agree that y'all is used as a first-person pronoun by Southerners. As I've said before, it's one of those things that marks an outsider-- it's very jarring. Well in person it is-- on TV you hear gooberisms that bad all the time.

    My apologies to any southern-born young people who swear they don't know what I'm talking about. I realize that urban America has made inroads, and I know in general that all things change. Plus, TV tends to impose its "culture" and its "language" on small children, and they grow up "talking TV."

    If this is happening to Southern children, and their parents and grandparents are in yet another lost cause when they try to correct the gooberisms they hear, then my broken heart reaches out to them.

    I agree with the original poster, re the need for a second-person plural pronoun. Southern dialect in general is spreading because it's the language of choice of pop music and other cultural forms-- so maybe there's a bright side to gooberism, and the Yankees feel just as bad hearing their kids talkin that way!
    .
     

    ScienceDay

    Member
    US English

    "y'all" can be a very conveniant word. There may be some people who use it to refer to one person, but that's the exception, not the rule. The rule is that "y'all" is strictly plural.
     

    languageGuy

    Senior Member
    USA and English
    I mostly agree that y'all is plural, but having lived in the South, I heard it used so many different ways that I would say there are no rules.

    I thought "you" was singular and "y'all" was plural, but I was often called "y'all" when totally alone, so it can be singular. If you want to make it clear that you are using a plural version, use "all y'all." Don't try to analyze it though, y'all just get a headache.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    languageGuy said:
    I thought "you" was singular and "y'all" was plural, but I was often called "y'all" when totally alone, so it can be singular.
    You may not want to consider this possibility, but-- when you were in the South, were you not perceived as a Y...uh, person of northern persuasion? Were there others present (an audience) when someone said, oh, let's pick a wild example out of nowhere-- "y'all come back, heah?"

    Sometimes the cliches of "Yankee Southrenisms" are turned back on our tormentors, for the amusement of onlookers, when they venture South for a visit.

    Just sometimes, y'unnerstand.
    .
     

    becky_tai

    New Member
    English England
    The use of "yous" is pretty widespread where I live in Northern England.

    Nobody here would ever say "y'all", though, unless they were impersonating an American.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Brioche said:
    Youse [pronounced: yooz] is used in Australia, but only in the lower socio-economic groups.
    Errmm - I should have said something like that too. When I said "we use yous", I didn't intend to suggest that everyone here uses yous.
    But it is not at all unusual.
     

    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    foxfirebrand said:
    You may not want to consider this possibility, but-- when you were in the South, were you not perceived as a Y...uh, person of northern persuasion?
    I went to school in southwest Virginia, and they kept calling me y'all all by my lonesome even after my accent was awfully similar to theirs and they'd pretty well gotten over the fact that I was practically a dam' foreigner. So I don't think that was it.
     

    Saratoga

    Senior Member
    usa english
    Apparently singular uses of y'all.

    I'm a native speaker of a y'all dialect and I think it is always plural. What may confuse an outsider is hearing a single person addressed as y'all. But I think in most or all of these cases, the speaker is addressing that person as a member of a group.

    So to one person, I may say, "Are y'all enjoying the summer?" meaning "Are you (and your family/wife/etc.) enjoying the summer?"

    Notice that in (semi-)standard American English, the Yankee could say "Are you guys enjoying your summer?" but this wouldn't mean that "you guys" is singular.

    And notice that in both Southern and non-Southern English, the answer is in the plural. "We sure are!"

    "All of y'all" is not the same as "y'all". The difference is the same as that between "them" and "all of them".

    Talk to y'all later,
    Saratoga
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Kelly B said:
    I went to school in southwest Virginia, and they kept calling me y'all all by my lonesome even after my accent was awfully similar to theirs and they'd pretty well gotten over the fact that I was practically a dam' foreigner. So I don't think that was it.
    I agree with Saratoga's explanation-- at least I hope that all still holds true. Like I done said, the encroachment of movie-speak might be the culprit. Don't ch'all make me git my shockgun now, cause this time I ain't apackin rat shot.
    .
     

    Victoria32

    Senior Member
    English (UK) New Zealand
    papillon said:
    People from the south of US are made fun of for using the contraction
    y'all = you all.

    It occurred to me that the spread of this pronoun may signal the subconscious move by English speakers to re-establish a distinct unambiguous pronoun for 2nd person plural. I mean, the French has its tu and vous, Spanish has at least 4 different ways to address someone; the list goes on. And English? ONLY ONE! So the "Thou" thing is gone, and "you" is ambiguous when addressing a group of people in certain contexts. So... this is where "y'all" comes in; no confusion there. Y'all are going to the movies?
    Some may say, that, well, no, this is used to stress that you're addressing all of the people present. Not so. For that, there is the ever popular
    All y'all:D

    What do you think?
    I have often thought that English needs a second person plural! In NZ, children often say 'youse' or 'youse guys' until parents and teachers bully them out of it (I know we did).
    Y'all will do! :D
     

    papillon

    Senior Member
    Russian (Ukraine)
    Saratoga said:
    Notice that in (semi-)standard American English, the Yankee could say "Are you guys enjoying your summer?" but this wouldn't mean that "you guys" is singular.
    Ah yes, of course. Thank you Saratoga for bringing up "you guys"! I think this one definitely qualifies in the same cathegory as "y'all". As someone whose native language has different forms of 2nd person pronouns, I am acutely aware of their shortage in English. I know I often use "you guys" to make sure that it's clear that I am addressing several people. But often I have a "y'all" envy, because, while I really like the construct, I can't really use it -- doesn't quite have the right ring to it when I say it.:(

    Thanks everyone for sharing their thoughts on this, I think we're onto something here. We just need to make sure that "y'all" doesn't go the way of the dodo "you" and become just as ambigous.
     

    brian

    Senior Member
    AmE (New Orleans)
    OK I just have to bring this up here. Let me first say that I was born and raised southern--spent the first 18 years of my life in Louisiana. I grew up on y'all and wouldn't have had it any other way. Then after high school I made my way to Chicago for college (where I still go), only to be smacked in the face with this you guys business.

    Now I'm not saying that y'all is any better a 2nd person plural than you guys (actually, I am...it's one syllable :D), but get this: When they want to make said form a possessive, in Chicago they say your guys's! :eek: Example: Are we going to your guys's place?

    Grammatically speaking, I suppose I could handle you guys's, but no...I never hear that, and even that would churn my stomach a bit.

    I must admit that I have given way to a few you guys in my tenure up north, but never will I substitute the simple, effective y'all's for your guys's.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    brian8733 said:
    I must admit that I have given way to a few you guys in my tenure up north, but never will I substitute the simple, effective y'all's for your guys's.
    A son of Dixie along with all your other salient features, huh? And a coonass no less? Your point about y'all's clinches it-- and you saved the best straw for last (poor camel). That's style.
    .
     

    papillon

    Senior Member
    Russian (Ukraine)
    brian8733 said:
    I must admit that I have given way to a few you guys in my tenure up north, but never will I substitute the simple, effective y'all's for your guys's.
    And the best part is, "y'all" is perfectly gender-neutral. While "you guys" is semi-acceptable for addressing mixed company, trying to use it on an all-female group may earn you a cold stare and a "we're not guys" rebuff. So you have a "y'all" to the rescue for those seeking a gender-neutral alternative. Just leave it to the South to lead the way on Politically Correct speech!
     

    Victoria32

    Senior Member
    English (UK) New Zealand
    And the best part is, "y'all" is perfectly gender-neutral. While "you guys" is semi-acceptable for addressing mixed company, trying to use it on an all-female group may earn you a cold stare and a "we're not guys" rebuff. So you have a "y'all" to the rescue for those seeking a gender-neutral alternative. Just leave it to the South to lead the way on Politically Correct speech!
    That is a good point, Papillon. I have been unimpressed by being part of a group of women addressed as 'you guys' or worse 'hey, guys', and as an experiment I once addressed a mixed group containing seven or so women and two men as 'hey, girls' one of the men followed across the campus to complain at being excluded by my address! "The biter bit" I told him..
    That's where 'y'all' is superior. As I said, in NZ, children and low SES people say "Youse" or "youse guys", like the Irish do. (Many New Zealanders are of Irish descent, which could explain that.)
     

    JLanguage

    Senior Member
    USA: American English, Learning Hebrew and Spanish
    It's a good theory, but the Southerners I know who say "y'all" are just as likely to use it for the singular you as for the plural.

    For the rest of us, you all, uncontracted, usually does mean "that whole group of you."

    I've never heard "y'all" used for singular "you" here in Georgia.
     

    modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    It occurred to me that the spread of this pronoun may signal the subconscious move by English speakers to re-establish a distinct unambiguous pronoun for 2nd person plural. I mean, the French has its tu and vous,
    I think you're right, although for me it's the unpopular "you guys" instead. I doubt I ever use just "you" when addressing more than one person in informal settings; it sounds odd to be honest. I even use it in a vous-like polite way when making requests at stores, where I guess, even if I'm addressing a single person, it feels more polite to ask about the whole establishment. I wonder if singular vous developed that way.

    Its use also seems to be increasing in formal contexts. The other day a news reporter was interviewing a representative from the World AIDS Conference and was using "you guys," which was unusual enough that I noticed it.

    As for "you guys" and all female groups, nobody around here seems to have a problem with it, although I can understand why some people would if they aren't accustomed to it.
    Now I'm not saying that y'all is any better a 2nd person plural than you guys (actually, I am...it's one syllable :D), but get this: When they want to make said form a possessive, in Chicago they say your guys's! :eek:
    You mean with the 's pronounced? That would sound odd. I do say "your guys" normally, although a simple "your" works if "you guys" was already said, e.g. "Did you guys do your homework?"
     

    papillon

    Senior Member
    Russian (Ukraine)
    I guess the idea of y'all being the plural of you has been around for a while.:(
    Click here for the Wiki article on Thou.
    But notice that this wiki articles doesn't mention the you guys. Oversight?
     

    phistash

    New Member
    Brooklyn, American English
    Growing up the kids in my neighborhood regularly used "youse" and "youse guys's" (pronounced "youse guyses", as a second person plural possessive). I was disturbed even then. At least "y'all" doesn't make me cringe.
     

    stranger in your midst

    Senior Member
    English / Scotland
    Following on from anonther thread on the largely derelict singular version of 'you', being 'thou', it seems to me English perhaps lost something worthwhile when it adopted 'you' for both singular and plural 2nd person.

    All other languages of which I have knowledge have at least two words, one denoting singular and the other plural. English 'you' can provoke confusion even among native speakers, particularly in writen English. However, I am aware some common dialects have circumvented the problem, either by retaining 'thou' or some variation of it (e.g. BE Yorkshire 'thou' or Orcadian 'du'), or by developing a separate plural version (e.g. BE Scots 'yous' or AE Southern 'y'all').

    Can anyone else suggest regional dialect words for 'thou' or 'you' plural ?

    Does the lack of two separate words seem odd or confusing for non-native speakers, or does it in fact make the language easier to learn ?
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    We don't have one in my region of the country, that I know of, but I believe "youse" is used in some parts of the country as a plural for "you".

    "Y'all" is a can of worms. It is used in different ways in different regions and can be singular in some parts of the country and plural in others, and even singular AND plural in yet other parts. I don't think it's a viable substitute.
     

    stranger in your midst

    Senior Member
    English / Scotland
    I suppose one way to get around the problem is to use 'yourself' for the singular and 'yourselves' for the plural where 'you' might lead to confusion.
     

    Heba

    Senior Member
    Egypt, Arabic
    Sometimes , I hear ''you all''

    Although we have a singular and a plural form of ''you'' in Arabic, I do not find the one English form odd or confusing. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I got accustomed to it and never thought of the possibility of having two separate words. Distinction can easily be made by adding a word like ''both of you'' or ''all of you''
     
    If I'm not wrong, some Scots use ye for you (singular) and yese for you ( plural).
    I'd say the lack of two separate words is maybe odd, but not confusing anymore after years that I've been studying English.

    EDIT: I didn't notice that you're Scots..my first comment might sound very silly to you then..;)
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    While I agree several dialects have managed their own variants of a plural you, I have never seen one used in a formal sense.

    In the southern U.S., more or less where I live, "y'all" is very common. However, I've never seen or heard it in a formal context, whether written or spoken, unless a part of actual "dialog."

    I would have to imagine "you guys" to be in the same vein.

    We've had some previous discussions of both ya'll and the use of "guys" in general. Perhaps some of these threads will help add insight.

    Who Would You Normally Call A Guy
    The Guy
    Plural of You - y'all? yous? you guys?

    Personally, I've rarely had a problem understanding whether a you is singular or plural, simply because there is almost always enough context to make the distinction.
     

    Hakro

    Senior Member
    Finnish - Finland
    The lack of singular "you" is always difficult for a translator. Sometimes you can see it in the context, sometimes not.

    "You all" or "you guys" would be clear but I'm afraid that they are not accepted as proper expressions. A logical answer would be to take the lost "thou" back.

    On the other hand, in some languages (for example Finnish) there's only one word for he and she. This sometimes is a problem, sometimes not.
     

    stranger in your midst

    Senior Member
    English / Scotland
    If I'm not wrong, some Scots use ye for you (singular) and yese for you ( plural).
    I'd say the lack of two separate words is maybe odd, but not confusing anymore after years that I've been studying English.

    EDIT: I didn't notice that you're Scots..my first comment might sound very silly to you then..;)

    'Ye' is often seen is Scottish literature and imitates the sound Scots typically give 'you'. The spelling 'ye', however, is perhaps misleading, as the actual sound is more like 'yih', as in the word 'Yiddish'. 'Ye' can mean both 'you' singular or 'you' plural, although you are quite correct is observing that an 's' or 'z' sound is oftem suffixed to it to represent the plural. 'Ye' is also an old spelling of 'the', which is still sometims seen, which originates from history when 'ye' reprsented the voiced 'th' sound - just to add to the confusion.
     
    Top