Winning English - Mastering Idioms, Slang, and Cultural References
The confusing number of ways to say the plural of "you"
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For such a simple word, “you” can be very confusing.
Of course, you are familiar with “you” as a simple singular pronoun. You can say, “How are you?” or “You are a wonderful person!”
But when “you” is used as a plural - that is, for two or more people - it can get tricky.
For example, suppose you say to a room full of people, “Can you help me?” What exactly are you asking? Do you want one particular person to help you or the entire room of people?
The problem is that English used to have two different words for the singular and plural “you”. But the language evolved, and now we only have one. (Here’s a great article on that evolution if you want to know more.)
Because of this confusion, English speakers have had to come up with new ways to indicate whether they are talking to one person or more people.
A simple, standard way to do so is to say “all of you”. For example, “Can all of you help me?”
But native speakers of any language are always more creative than that. In American English there are a variety of ways to indicate the plural “you”.
One is “you all”. For example, “You all need to help me.”
In southern parts of the US, a contraction of “you all” is commonly used instead. It’s “y’all”. “Y’all need to help me.”
Where I grew up in the northern US, it was common to say “you guys”. “You guys need to help me.” The problem with this one is that “guys” is a word for men. Women are called “gals”. So, using “you guys” could be seen as sexist, or it could just be inaccurate if there are both men and women in the room.
Believe it or not, there are even more plural “you’s”!
Some people say “youse”. “Youse need to help me.”
Others say “you’uns”. “You’uns need to help me.”
There’s even one that’s used mostly in just one city. Around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, they say “yinz”. “Yinz need to help me.”
Normally, we think of evolution as making things better. Unfortunately in this case, the evolution of English made things harder.
But not for you, anymore, because now you know!
Thanks for reading Winning English! Now for that new feature! Here’s the video. Let me know what you think. And remember that there is always the podcast, as well. Talk soon!