2nd person plural in English

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Postby JackFrost » 2005-05-23, 2:01

Did I call you a Southern?

I just simply stated that Virginia is a Southern state, not you. :P

But thanks for clearing that up, I would've called you a Southern any time soon. ;)
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Postby Stan » 2005-05-23, 2:03

It used to exist as a standard part of English many centuries ago, in the form of "ye" the 2nd person plural, the singular of that would be "thou".

Today alot of people will just use "you" when talking to a group of people, however people also use "you all", "you guys" (this can refer to a group of both women and men or even just women, not only just a group of men), and in the southern region of the United States, many people will say "y'all" a contraction of "you all".

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Re: 2nd person plural in English

Postby Kirk » 2005-05-27, 5:05

Saaropean wrote:Just a little question for the native English speakers: Would you consider "you guys" as a personal pronoun for the second person plural?
I heard that so often in North America, even in occasions where a German would never use anything else than the polite "Sie" (Spanish "ustedes").
Your comments (I mean the comments of you guys :) ) are appreciated.


For the 2nd-person plural I almost always use "you guys." As someone else mentioned, this is not restricted just to males, and indeed may quite naturally be directed towards a group of all females. What's happened here is the "guys" has undergone a semantic shift--in this construction/usage it's lost most of its semantic weight identifying it as a male referent and has gone (or is going) thru the process of grammaticalization. This is a common process in languages. For example, it's similar to what happened in the 2nd person plural in Spanish. "Vos otros," once clearly two semantically distinct words in older Spanish, has been turned into "vosotros," in which the "otros" part of the word is not analyzed as "others" but as a crucial component of the 2nd person plural in Iberian Spanish.

Back to the way I use it in English, I almost exclusively use "you guys," but in a formal situation I will either use "you" or possibly "you all" ("y'all" is absent from my speech, however). However, situations formal enough to warrant "you" or "you all" are rare, and "you guys" is the norm in almost all situations here, at least in California, but I think it's a similar situation in many places in North America.

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Postby The Masked Unmasker » 2005-05-27, 11:17

Some women (not many, mostly older - fastidious) don't like to be addressed as being part of "you guys." So, some people -- in order to please them, or maybe because they themselves feel "guys" is really masculine or sexist or something -- will say: "You guys [sometimes with a slight (ironic) pause here] and gals..."

I've heard "you gals" used to address an all-female group, especially by another woman.

I would say guys/guys and gals/gals/y'all are all very informal.

"You all" can be used in formal situations I think. I use it when I want to make it clear that I'm addressing more than one person.

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Postby Moonshadow » 2005-06-02, 4:00

Another way to stress that the meaning is 2nd person plural, not singular, in more formal speech is to use "all of you" rather than "you all".

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Postby Kirk » 2005-06-02, 4:18

Moonshadow wrote:Another way to stress that the meaning is 2nd person plural, not singular, in more formal speech is to use "all of you" rather than "you all".


Good point. Come to think of it, I've definitely used that in more formal settings.

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Postby Magnus » 2005-06-18, 9:34

I seem to remember once being told (I'm not sure how seriously, as it was via email) by somebody from somewhere in the Southern USA that in their area "y'all" was actually used for you singular (or thou if you prefer(*)) and "all y'all" was used for the plural. :D

(*) I think it would be useful to have distinct pronouns for singular and plural, but I've never been a big fan of the formal/informal divide. I'm very much in favour of languages like Swahili, where wewe always means you (sg.) and ninyi means you (pl.), and I'd love to see thou reintroduced into English if it could be used consistently for the singular.

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Postby JackFrost » 2005-06-18, 18:36

Daniel wrote:Also, in the UK, colloquially when we want to a refer to the 2nd person singular, we just use 'you' but 'yous/youse' when referring to the 2nd person plural. This occurs in many British dialects, so it's not standard English.

You can find "youse" in some dialects in the Northern USA.
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Postby Kirk » 2005-06-18, 21:18

JackFrost wrote:
Daniel wrote:Also, in the UK, colloquially when we want to a refer to the 2nd person singular, we just use 'you' but 'yous/youse' when referring to the 2nd person plural. This occurs in many British dialects, so it's not standard English.

You can find "youse" in some dialects in the Northern USA.


Yeah, I've heard that on some TV shows or movies set in some Northeast places in the US. I remember Archie on "All in the Family" said "youse." I've never heard that here in California, however--always "you guys."
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Postby JoeK » 2005-06-19, 10:07

Magnus wrote:I seem to remember once being told (I'm not sure how seriously, as it was via email) by somebody from somewhere in the Southern USA that in their area "y'all" was actually used for you singular (or thou if you prefer(*)) and "all y'all" was used for the plural. :D


oh geeze... let me think... okay.

"y'all" seems to imply a more exclusive sense of "all of you," while "all y'all" conveys a more explicit, greater sense.

When directed towards a group:
Y'all are crazy = You guys, the people I'm looking at, are crazy.
All y'all are crazy = Every single one of you, including those I don't know about, can't see, or are just within earshot, are absolutely nuts.

When directed towards individuals within a group:
Y'all need to back off = You folks, those I am specifically addressing, should calm down and give me some space
All y'all need to back off = EVERYBODY BACK BEFORE I RIP SOMEONE'S LUNGS OUT! I DON'T CARE WHO YOU ARE! FRIEND, FOE, NEUTRAL, PREGNANT WOMAN, I WILL GET ON ANYONE IN MY LINE OF SIGHT! I'M ABOUT TO BERZERK, I'M CRAZY! WATCH IT NOW!

I don't know if that helps at all, or if it even makes sense, but that's how I've always understood the two.

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Postby Kirk » 2005-06-19, 21:40

JoeK wrote:
Magnus wrote:I seem to remember once being told (I'm not sure how seriously, as it was via email) by somebody from somewhere in the Southern USA that in their area "y'all" was actually used for you singular (or thou if you prefer(*)) and "all y'all" was used for the plural. :D


oh geeze... let me think... okay.

"y'all" seems to imply a more exclusive sense of "all of you," while "all y'all" conveys a more explicit, greater sense.

When directed towards a group:
Y'all are crazy = You guys, the people I'm looking at, are crazy.
All y'all are crazy = Every single one of you, including those I don't know about, can't see, or are just within earshot, are absolutely nuts.

When directed towards individuals within a group:
Y'all need to back off = You folks, those I am specifically addressing, should calm down and give me some space
All y'all need to back off = EVERYBODY BACK BEFORE I RIP SOMEONE'S LUNGS OUT! I DON'T CARE WHO YOU ARE! FRIEND, FOE, NEUTRAL, PREGNANT WOMAN, I WILL GET ON ANYONE IN MY LINE OF SIGHT! I'M ABOUT TO BERZERK, I'M CRAZY! WATCH IT NOW!

I don't know if that helps at all, or if it even makes sense, but that's how I've always understood the two.


I read an article recently based off some linguists' findings that at least in some parts of Texas "y'all" is singular and "all y'all" is the plural. I don't remember this from when I lived in Texas, but I lived in the Dallas-Ft.Worth area and I don't think that's really done there.
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Postby ChrisW » 2005-06-20, 2:49

I read an article a while ago claiming that "y'all" was no longer strictly a Southern thing, having become common across the US. You can hear it here in the Northeast, though "you guys" is more common. "Yous" is often used here too, especially as an unstressed object pronoun -- "You guys were here. I saw yous [pronounced 'yuhs']."

This is a bit subjective, but if I had to rate them in terms of acceptability in polite speech, it would be

You all
Y'all
You guys
Yous (unstressed object)
Yous (subject)

with "you all" the most acceptable and "yous" the most stigmatized.

"You lot" is more of a British expression, but I've occasionally heard it used by Americans. I think it might tend to sound a little brusque to American ears.

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Postby Kirk » 2005-06-20, 2:57

ChrisW wrote:I read an article a while ago claiming that "y'all" was no longer strictly a Southern thing, having become common across the US. You can hear it here in the Northeast, though "you guys" is more common. "Yous" is often used here too, especially as an unstressed object pronoun -- "You guys were here. I saw yous [pronounced 'yuhs']."

This is a bit subjective, but if I had to rate them in terms of acceptability in polite speech, it would be

You all
Y'all
You guys
Yous (unstressed object)
Yous (subject)

with "you all" the most acceptable and "yous" the most stigmatized.

"You lot" is more of a British expression, but I've occasionally heard it used by Americans. I think it might tend to sound a little brusque to American ears.


I've read that "y'all" has been found outside of the South now, too, but I hardly ever hear it here in California. Since in California we don't have "y'all" or "yous," the list of politeness ranking would go as follows:

-You all, all of you (these are somewhat more formal)
-You guys (almost universally common)
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Postby ChrisW » 2005-06-20, 3:05

svenska84 wrote:I've read that "y'all" has been found outside of the South now, too, but I hardly ever hear it here in California. Since in California we don't have "y'all" or "yous," the list of politeness ranking would go as follows:

-You all, all of you (these are somewhat more formal)
-You guys (almost universally common)


I don't think y'all is very widespread here, but it does seem to be getting more common. I wish I could find the article again.

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Postby Kazimer » 2005-06-22, 22:23

In the midwest anything goes yous, you all, y'all, you guys. It really doesn't matter. Just "Go with the flow" so to speak.

As for thou & you here's basically how it went. Thou was originally an informal pronoun due to the Norman invasion of England (think fr. tu v. vous) and it has been shown that thou is a cognate of the german 'du' and even the romanace 'tu'. But, thou was eventually dropped around the 17th cent. and somehow it became a formal pronoun in the King James Edition of the bible and in recent revisions of the text thou only refers to god or it has been replaced with you.

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Postby Kirk » 2005-06-22, 23:43

phreaker wrote:In the midwest anything goes yous, you all, y'all, you guys. It really doesn't matter. Just "Go with the flow" so to speak.

As for thou & you here's basically how it went. Thou was originally an informal pronoun due to the Norman invasion of England (think fr. tu v. vous) and it has been shown that thou is a cognate of the german 'du' and even the romanace 'tu'. But, thou was eventually dropped around the 17th cent. and somehow it became a formal pronoun in the King James Edition of the bible and in recent revisions of the text thou only refers to god or it has been replaced with you.


Actually "thou" has nothing to do with the Norman Invasion, as it had been in Old English before the Normans came--as you said its roots are Germanic, explaining the connection to Germanic "du." This, in turn, is a cognate with Romance "tu" as Germanic and Romance are both distantly related under the Proto Indo European umbrella.
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Postby Kazimer » 2005-06-23, 17:34

That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying how it was used became reinforced with the Norman invasion because of how the French use the 2nd person plural in a formal sense.

Sorry about that sometimes I go on a tangent and forget to mention certain details.

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Postby Stan » 2005-06-23, 18:00

Thou represents the expected outcome of Old English þú, which, with expected Germanic lengthening of the vowel in an open syllable, represents Indo-European *tu. Thou is therefore cognate with Latin, French, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian tu and modern German du. A cognate form of the pronoun exists in almost every other Indo-European language.
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Postby Blackleaf » 2005-12-24, 20:16

nosafety wrote:"You" would be the proper polite way to use the 2nd person plural, possibly accompanied by such niceties as "Ladies and Gentlemen" or "Sir" as a form of address. "You guys," "you-all," or "y'all" should be fine in familiar surroundings, but it you're trying to be polite, it's not the way to go.


Unless you're British, in which case "y'all" sounds absolutely HORRENDOUS and is an ugly Americanism.

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Postby Blackleaf » 2005-12-24, 20:18

The Scots like yo use the word "yous".

"I'll give all of yous presents for Christmas."


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