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"Your" redirects here. For words with various spellings pronounced the same, see Ure (disambiguation).
This article is about the pronoun. For other uses, see You (disambiguation).

The pronoun you (stressed /ˈjuː/, unstressed /jə/) is the second-person personal pronoun, both singular and plural, and both nominative and oblique case, in Modern English. The oblique (objective) form you functioned previously in the roles of both accusative and dative, as well as all instances after a preposition. The possessive forms of you are your (used before a noun) and yours (used in place of a noun). The reflexive forms are yourself (singular) and yourselves (plural).

Personal pronouns in standard Modern English
Person (gender) Subject Object Possessive determiner Possessive pronoun Reflexive
First I me my mine myself
Second you your yours yourself
Third Masculine he him his himself
Feminine she her hers herself
Neuter it its itself
First we us our ours ourselves
Second you your yours yourselves
Third they them their theirs themselves


In standard English, you is both singular and 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). This was not always so. 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 rural English dialects. Because thou is now seen primarily in literary sources such as the King James Bible (often directed to God, who is traditionally addressed in the familiar) or Shakespeare (often in dramatic dialogues, e.g. "Wherefore art thou Romeo?"), it is now widely perceived as more formal, rather than familiar.

Informal plural forms[edit]

Despite you being both singular and plural, some dialects retain the distinction between a singular and plural you with different words. Examples of such pronouns sometimes seen and heard are:

Although these plurals are used in daily speech, they are sometimes not considered acceptable in formal writing situations.

Third person usage[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Generic you.

You is usually a second person pronoun. In formal English, the indefinite pronoun one can be used in the third person to refer to an indeterminate person. However, in informal usage, English speakers usually replace one with you.

Example: "One cannot learn English in a day" becomes "You cannot learn English in a day".[citation needed]


You is derived from Old English ge or ȝe (both pronounced roughly like Modern English yea), which was the old nominative case form of the pronoun, and eow, which was the old accusative case form of the pronoun. In Middle English the nominative case became ye, and the oblique case (formed by the merger of the accusative case and the former dative case) was you. In early Modern English either the nominative or the accusative form had been generalized in most dialects. Most generalized you; some dialects in the north of England and Scotland generalized ye, or use ye as a clipped or clitic form of the pronoun.

The specific form of this pronoun can be derived from PIE *yū(H)s (2nd plural nominative). It is most widespread in the Germanic languages, but has cognates in other branches of Indo-European languages such as Ved. yūyám, Av. yūš, Gk. humeis, Toch. yas/yes, Arm. dzez/dzez/cez, OPruss. ioūs, Lith. jūs, Ltv. jūs, Alb. juve, ju. In other Indo-European languages the form derived from *wō̆s (second person plural oblique) began to prevail: Lat. vōs, Pol. wy, Russ. вы [vy].

In the early days of the printing press, the letter y was used in place of the thorn (þ), so many modern instances of "ye" (such as in "Ye Olde Shoppe") are in fact examples of "the" (definite article) and not of "you". This use of letters in printing may have indirectly helped to contribute to the displacement of thou by you, and the use of you in the nominative case.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ Jochnowitz, George (1984). "Another View of You Guys". American Speech 58 (1): 68–70. doi:10.2307/454759. JSTOR 454759. 
  3. ^ Finegan, Edward (2011). Language: Its Structure and Use. Wadsworth Publishing Co Inc p. 489. ISBN 978-0495900412
  4. ^ Dolan, T. P. (2006). A Dictionary of Hiberno-English. Gill & Macmillan. p. 26. ISBN 978-0717140398
  5. ^ Wales, Katie (1996). Personal Pronouns in Present-Day English. Cambridge University Press. p. 76. ISBN 978-0521471022
  6. ^ Kortmann, Bernd; Upton, Clive (2008). Varieties of English: The British Isles. Mouton de Gruyter. p. 378. ISBN 978-3110196351
  7. ^ Taavitsainen, Irma; Jucker, Andreas H. (2003). Diachronic Perspectives on Address Term Systems. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 351. ISBN 978-9027253484
  8. ^ Butler S (1999). [1] Australian Wordmap: Youse
  9. ^ 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
  10. ^ Graddol, David et al. (1996). English History, Diversity and Change. Routledge. p. 244. ISBN 978-0415131186