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In Modern English, the word "you" is the second-person pronoun. It is grammatically plural, and was historically used only for the dative case, but in most[citation needed] modern dialects is used for all cases and numbers.


You comes from the Proto-Germanic demonstrative base *juz-, *iwwiz from Proto-Indo-European *yu- (second-person plural pronoun).[1] Old English had singular, dual, and plural second-person pronouns. The dual form was lost by the twelfth century,[2]: 117  and the singular form was lost by the early 1600s.[3] The development is shown in the following table.[2]: 117, 120, 121 

Second-person pronoun in Old English, Middle English, & Modern English
Singular Dual Plural
Nominative þu þu ġit ġe ȝē you
Accusative þe þē inc ēow ȝou
Genitive þīn þī(n) incer ēower ȝour(es) your(s)

Early Modern English distinguished between the plural ye and the singular thou. As in many other European languages, English at the time had a T–V distinction, which made the plural forms more respectful and deferential; they were used to address strangers and social superiors.[3] This distinction ultimately led to familiar thou becoming obsolete in modern English, although it persists in some English dialects.

Yourself had developed by the early 14th century, with the plural yourselves attested from 1520.[4]


In Standard Modern English, you has five shapes representing six distinct word forms:[5]

  • you: the nominative (subjective) and accusative (objective or oblique case[6]: 146 ) forms
  • your: the dependent genitive (possessive) form
  • yours: independent genitive (possessive) form
  • yourselves: the plural reflexive form
  • yourself: the singular reflexive form

Plural forms from other varieties

Although there is some dialectal retention of the original plural ye and the original singular thou, most English-speaking groups have lost the original forms. Because of the loss of the original singular-plural distinction, many English dialects belonging to this group have innovated new plural forms of the second person pronoun. Examples of such pronouns sometimes seen and heard include:


You prototypically refers to the addressee along with zero or more other persons, excluding the speaker. You is also used to refer to personified things (e.g., why won't you start? addressed to a car).[25] You is always definite even when it is not specific.

Semantically, you is both singular and plural, though syntactically it is almost always plural: i.e. always takes a verb form that originally marked the word as plural, (i.e. you are, in common with we are and they are).

Third person usage

You is used to refer to an indeterminate person, as a more common alternative to the very formal indefinite pronoun one.[26] Though this may be semantically third person, for agreement purposes, you is always second person.

Example: "One should drink water frequently" or "You should drink water frequently".



You almost always triggers plural verb agreement, even when it is semantically singular.


You can appear as a subject, object, determiner or predicative complement.[5] The reflexive form also appears as an adjunct. You occasionally appears as a modifier in a noun phrase.

  • Subject: You're there; your being there; you paid for yourself to be there.
  • Object: I saw you; I introduced her to you; You saw yourself.
  • Predicative complement: The only person there was you.
  • Dependent determiner: I met your friend.
  • Independent determiner: This is yours.
  • Adjunct: You did it yourself.
  • Modifier: This sounds like a you problem.


Pronouns rarely take dependents, but it is possible for you to have many of the same kind of dependents as other noun phrases.


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the following pronunciations are used:

Form Plain Unstressed Recording
you (UK) /juː/

(US) /jə/



female speaker with US accent
your (UK) /jɔː/

(US) /jɔr/



female speaker with US accent
yours (UK) /jɔːz/

(US) /jɔrz/



female speaker with US accent
yourselves (UK) /jɔːˈsɛlvz/, /jʊəˈsɛlvz/

(US) /jɔrˈsɛlvz/, /jʊrˈsɛlvz/



yourself (UK) /jɔːˈsɛlf/, /jʊəˈsɛlf/

(US) /jɔrˈsɛlf/, /jʊrˈsɛlf/



female speaker with US accent

See also


  1. ^ "Origin and meaning of it". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  2. ^ a b Blake, Norman, ed. (1992). The Cambridge history of the English Language: Volume II 1066–1476. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^ a b "thee". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  4. ^ "yourselves". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  5. ^ a b Huddleston, Rodney; Pullum, Geoffrey K. (2002). The Cambridge grammar of the English language. Cambridge University Press.
  6. ^ Lass, Roger, ed. (1999). The Cambridge history of the English Language: Volume III 1476–1776. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  7. ^ Rios, Delia M (2004-06-01). "'You-guys': It riles Miss Manners and other purists, but for most it adds color to language landscape". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-03-30.
  8. ^ a b c d e Schreier, Daniel; Trudgill, Peter; Schneider, Edgar W.; Williams, Jeffrey P., eds. (2013). The Lesser-Known Varieties of English: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781139487412.
  9. ^ Jochnowitz, George (1984). "Another View of You Guys". American Speech. 58 (1): 68–70. doi:10.2307/454759. JSTOR 454759.
  10. ^ Finegan, Edward (2011). Language: Its Structure and Use. Wadsworth Publishing Co Inc p. 489. ISBN 978-0495900412
  11. ^ a b c d e Williams, Jeffrey P.; Schneider, Edgar W.; Trudgill, Peter; Schreier, Daniel, eds. (2015). Further Studies in the Lesser-Known Varieties of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-02120-4.
  12. ^ "Expressions". The Aussie English Podcast. Archived from the original on Aug 23, 2018.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Allsopp, Richard (2003) [1996]. Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. Kingston: The University of the West Indies Press. ISBN 978-976-640-145-0.
  14. ^ "Dictionary of Trinidad and Tobago". Chateau Guillaumme Bed and Breakfast.
  15. ^ Dolan, T. P. (2006). A Dictionary of Hiberno-English. Gill & Macmillan. p. 26. ISBN 978-0717140398
  16. ^ Wales, Katie (1996). Personal Pronouns in Present-Day English. Cambridge University Press. p. 76. ISBN 978-0521471022
  17. ^ Kortmann, Bernd; Upton, Clive (2008). Varieties of English: The British Isles. Mouton de Gruyter. p. 378. ISBN 978-3110196351
  18. ^ Taavitsainen, Irma; Jucker, Andreas H. (2003). Diachronic Perspectives on Address Term Systems. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 351. ISBN 978-9027253484
  19. ^ Butler, Susan (Aug 30, 2013). "Pluralising 'you' to 'youse'". Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  20. ^ My sweet | Philadelphia Inquirer | 02/03/2008 Archived April 22, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ McClelland, Edward (Feb 6, 2017). "Here's hoping all youse enjoy this". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2020-03-10.
  22. ^ Rehder, John B. (2004). Appalachian folkways. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-7879-4. OCLC 52886851.
  23. ^ Howe, Stephen (1996). The Personal Pronouns in the Germanic Languages: A Study of Personal Morphology and Change in the Germanic Languages from the First Records to the Present Day. p. 174. Walter de Gruyter & Co. ISBN 978-3110146363
  24. ^ Graddol, David et al. (1996). English History, Diversity and Change. Routledge. p. 244. ISBN 978-0415131186
  25. ^ "you, pron., adj., and n." Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  26. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (2016). Garner's Modern English Usage. Oxford University Press. p. 651. ISBN 978-0-19-049148-2.