In Modern English, you is the second-person pronoun. It is grammatically plural, and was historically used only for the dative case, but in most modern dialects is used for all cases and numbers.
You comes from the Proto-Germanic demonstrative base *juz-, *iwwiz from PIE *yu- (second person plural pronoun). Old English had singular, dual, and plural second-person pronouns. The dual form was lost by the twelfth century,: 117 and the singular form was lost by the early 1600s. The development is shown in the following table.: 117, 120, 121
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. 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.
- you: the nominative (subjective) and accusative (objective or oblique case: 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:
- y'all, or you all – southern United States, African American Vernacular English, the Abaco Islands, St. Helena and Tristan da Cunha. Y'all however, is also occasionally used for the second person singular in the North American varieties.
- you guys [ju gajz~juɣajz] – United States, particularly in the Midwest, Northeast, South Florida and West Coast; Canada, Australia. Gendered usage varies; for mixed groups, "you guys" is nearly always used. For groups consisting of only women, forms like "you girls" or "you gals" might appear instead, though "you guys" is sometimes used for a group of only women as well.
- you lot – UK, Palmerston Island, Australia
- you mob – Australia
- you-all, all-you – Caribbean English, Saba
- a(ll)-yo-dis – Guyana
- allyuh – Trinidad and Tobago
- among(st)-you – Carriacou, Grenada, Guyana, Utila
- wunna – Barbados
- yinna – Bahamas
- unu/oona – Jamaica, Belize, Cayman Islands, Barbados, San Salvador Island
- yous(e) – Ireland, Tyneside, Merseyside, Central Scotland, Australia, Falkland Islands, New Zealand, Philadelphia, parts of the midwest, Cape Breton and rural Canada
- yous(e) guys – in the United States, particularly in New York City region, Philadelphia, Northeastern Pennsylvania, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan;
- you-uns, or yinz – Western Pennsylvania, The Ozarks, The Appalachians
- ye, yee, yees, yiz – Ireland, Tyneside, Newfoundland and Labrador
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). You is always definite even when it is not specific.
Semantically, you is both singular and plural, though syntactically it is always plural: it 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. 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 always triggers plural verb agreement, even when it is semantically singular.
- 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: (no known examples)
- Relative clause modifier: you who believe
- Determiner: the real you; *the you
- Adjective phrase modifier: the real you; *real you
- Adverb phrase external modifier: Not even you
According to the OED, the following pronunciations are used:
|yourselves||(UK) /jɔːˈsɛlvz/, /jʊəˈsɛlvz/
(US) /jɔrˈsɛlvz/, /jʊrˈsɛlvz/
|yourself||(UK) /jɔːˈsɛlf/, /jʊəˈsɛlf/
(US) /jɔrˈsɛlf/, /jʊrˈsɛlf/
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