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Unbroken's avatar

What is a grammatically correct term for "ya'll"?

Asked by Unbroken (10690points) January 27th, 2013

I am not from the south but have always used this term. It is a good universal polite pronoun especially in passing with men and women when there is either an unknown connection or none at all.

However I have been told “ya’ll” is grammatically incorrect. I can concede that as a conjuction it is informal and probably slang and with roots in the South it falls under the heading vernacular.

But is there any formal replacement and grammatically correct term that doesn’t sound neurotic or awkward?

What word do you use in place of “ya’ll”?

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46 Answers

CWOTUS's avatar


chyna's avatar


dxs's avatar

Let’s start off by saying that I am from the North, but I have still heard the word being used.
If by “conjunction” you mean “contraction” then yes it is, but I would spell it “y’all”, short for “you all”. So instead of saying “Y’all need to go.”, you could say “All of you need to go.”, or simply “You need to go.”, since “You” can refer to more than just one person (but I personally hate this ambiguity).
Again, I’m not from the South, so I don’t know of if it is used any other way such as an interjection or something. And overall, I don’t have a problem when people say “y’all”.

morphail's avatar

My understanding is that y’all is a plural pronoun – that is, it’s used when addressing more than one person. Are you saying that it is also used when addressing one person formally?

zenvelo's avatar

As a contraction it is informal and is idiomatically applicable to singular or plural. But it is more appropriately used for a group as the contraction of a plural “you all”.

Pachy's avatar

I grew up in Texas and always just said “You,” singular or plural. English grammar classes and speech courses rid me of most of my Texasisms.

gasman's avatar

I lived in Georgia for some years. “Y’all” (short for you all) is often used in the singular, in which case the plural is “All y’all.” The president of a hospital board addressed a gathering of doctors in this manner.

Unbroken's avatar

Corrections noted and half way appreciated.

Y’all really are on top of the game. But OK when asking a grammar question I should proofread my work.

So besides “You all” which isn’t precisely what I was looking for since I typically find it awkward, are there any other word replacers?

diavolobella's avatar

You all. Y’all is Southern vernacular, sort for “you all” but applied to both the singular and plural. I will tell you, as Southerner, that y’all is acceptable in spoken word, but it frowned upon in written form, even among Southerners. I’m not sure why that is, but I think it’s because it tends to come across condescendingly when in written form – like you are talking down. It’s a bit precious.

A young girl who works at my office frequently sends emails telling us that she is leaving early, taking a long lunch or time off which she is not entitled to. She sprinkles the term “y’all” throughout these emails, as if talking to us so familiarly somehow eases the insult of her doing something she’s not supposed to be doing and which is to our detriment. In response, among ourselves, we make a lot of fun about “y’all, y’all, y’all” behind her back. like “I have an idea, why don’t y’all go stick it up y’all’s a**, y’all?”

So, just bear in mind, it’s better not to write it, but it’s fine to say it.

livelaughlove21's avatar

1. Its y’all, not ya’ll.

2. It stands for “you all.”

3. It’s probably not grammatically correct, but Southern people don’t usually care about such things.

4. I’m originally from the North, where we used to say “you guys”, but I quickly fell into y’all shortly after moving South. I think it sounds more…natural? And one fits in better down here when one uses terms like y’all and fishin’, huntin’, dippin’ and muddin’, bo. :)

5. Other terms include “you” and “you guys”.

It’s so widely used that few notice it or find it odd/incorrect enough to point it out. I say just use it.

diavolobella's avatar

why do I keep checking my work before posting, but then coming back and finding words missing in my posts? It’s so weird. There is a letter h, the word “a” missing and “is” got changed to “it”. Am I getting senile or is there something wrong with the editing function

livelaughlove21's avatar

@diavolobella Are you on a computer or a phone? The auto-correct feature on my iPhone is a huge pain in the ass, and is to blame for 90% of my typing errors on Fluther.

DominicX's avatar

I used to like “y’all” because it seemed like a valid substitute for the lack of a distinct 2nd person plural pronoun in English, until I heard from a Southerner that “y’all” is actually singular and the plural is “all y’all”. Now I just find it annoying ;)

livelaughlove21's avatar

@DominicX How is y’all singular? It means “you all” as in, more than just you.

DominicX's avatar

Don’t ask me. But according to the guy I was talking to, “y’all” was often used when speaking to one person and “all y’all” was used for than one. I don’t know what part of the South he was from, though.

Unbroken's avatar

@DominicX I have spent a limited time in the South and now recall hearing that phrase.
I suppose I don’t take as much exception to it as you do though.

diavolobella's avatar

@livelaughlove21 On my computer. I’ll think I’ve fixed all the errors, but when I come back, some of them are still there or new ones appear. Probably just me.

@DominicX I’m in Tennessee and it can be both singular or plural without the insertion of “all” being necessary before the “y’all” to make it plural. However, that said, it’s fairly uncommon to hear “y’all” used in reference to a single person in the first place. I only use “y’all” as a plural term, since it just sounds wrong to use it in reference to one person. One person isn’t an all, they are a you.

bookish1's avatar

In New Jersey, they say “youse” or “yas.” Ugh. I think “y’all” is much easier on the ears.
If you really don’t want to use a contraction in speech, you could say “you folks”/“you guys” (both are familiar although not slang), or “all of you.”

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El_Cadejo's avatar

If there is one word that makes me cringe, its y’all

@bookish1 I’ve lived in NJ my whole life and have never heard either said. NJ gets such a bad name from the assholes up north. It really should be two different states.

glacial's avatar

I find that most of the time, “you” is sufficient in context. “You both” or “you all” are ok… it really depends on who you’re speaking to and how.

@DominicX I’ve heard that (about “y’all” being singular) from a Southerner as well.

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morphail's avatar

“y’all” being used as a singular pronoun is not too unusual. After all “you” used to be solely plural before it started to be used as a singular pronoun. There are many parallels in other Indo-European languages.

susanc's avatar

I was thinking too about what @morphail just said, er, wrote, to all y’all plus, of course, to me.
In Spanish we have “tu” for you if you are one person with whom the speaker is fairly familiar, and “usted” if you are a bunch of people or you are people the speaker should be uberpolite to because s/he doesn’t know you. In French we have “tu” for the beloved or the good friend, and “vous” for a group of people or if we don’t know you too well. I don’t understand how we skipped this in English. It seems like “you” is more similar to “vous” than to “tu” but where on earth did “usted” come from and why is it used exactly like “vous”? And why would it be more formal to call someone by a pronoun which treats him as a group? wtf?

Yeahright's avatar

@susanc It seems like “you” is more similar to “vous” than to “tu” You is actually either tu or vous. The tone of formality in English is given by the context and the rest of the words used in the sentence that help indicate that the situation is formal or informal. If you say Hi Joe! How are you? this you is tu/tú but if you say Hello Professor Miller. How are you? that you is vous/usted. (French/Spanish respectively.)
French: tu/vous singular informal and formal respectively. Vous plural formal.
Spanish: tu/Ud. singular informal and formal respectively.
Usted/Ustedes singular and plural formal forms of you.
Vosotros/Ustedes plural informal forms of you.

And why would it be more formal to call someone by a pronoun which treats him as a group? Because in morphological terms it looks the same, but grammatically it works in both ways singular and plural.

ucme's avatar

You’s lot.

morphail's avatar

@susanc English had “thou” for singular and “you” for plural. “Thou” is cognate with French and Spanish “tu”. When we lost “thou”, we started using “you” for both singular and plural.

“Usted” is a contraction of “vuestra merced” meaning “your mercy”.

CWOTUS's avatar

Before you start speaking Spanish to anyone, @susanc, usted (abbreviated as Ud. or Vd.) is the “formal singular” form of you, and ustedes (abbreviated Uds. or Vds.) is the “formal plural” form of second person address.

And the natives in Michigan (the non-Mexican ones, anyway) often say “youse” to address groups, too. It’s not just parts of New Jersey and the five Boroughs of New York.

JLeslie's avatar

Y’all is used both singular and plural depending on who are where it is being used, and All y’all is the plural in some places. Using y’all as plural drives me crazy. Y’all is used in the south by almost everyone I meet at every income and education level, as opposed to your guys, which is only used by a very specific area in the north within certain subcultures. You can just simply use you for both singular and plural. Most people I know would say “all of you” in place of y’all.

@CWOTUS Ustedes is third person plural. Vosotros/as is second person. Or, did I misunderstand what you meant.

CWOTUS's avatar

No, @JLeslie, ustedes is second person plural, formal. Vosotros is the second person plural, familiar. Here is a reference.

morphail's avatar

usted/ustedes are grammatically third person, that is they take the third person verb suffixes. But they are semantically second person. I think they arose out of a formal tradition of referring to one’s superiors in the third person. cf English “your honour” or “your highness”.

JLeslie's avatar

Oh right, I was just thinking in terms of the verb agreement. Thanks.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Ya’ll I use sometimes for fun or with people from my area or sometimes people act like I’m a dumb hillbilly, but of course in business, I would use appropriate language.

“What would each of you like for lunch today at your conference meeting?”

Seek's avatar

Sadly, in American English we lack a second person plural pronoun.

I do not use “y’all” for any reason. “All of you” serves just as well, and if joking around I’ll revert to my South Shore Staten Island “Youse Guys”.

diavolobella's avatar

I just got “y’alled” at work again via email. This is the type of usage you want to avoid at all costs unless you wish for a bunny with a pancake on its head to bludgeon you to death with a stapler. There is nothing worse than the insincere, patronizing y’all.

Hey Y’all, I was told this weekend that I had to go into work at my other job early to take a bartender test today before my shift, so I will have to leave here at noon today! I know this prevents Diavolobella from being able to take a lunch, since (redacted name of other part-time person) was already scheduled to be out today, so there is no one to cover. So sorry for this inconvenience, y’all! Y’all have a great day!

flutherother's avatar

Second person plural is youse as in ‘any of youse going to the pub?’
Spoken only, never written.

flutherother's avatar

Scotland, but I think youse is a Glasgow word.

Seek's avatar

@flutherother That makes sense. Lots of the Gaelic-speakers in coastal New England could have contributed to the “Youse Guys” phenomenon in New York/Jersey/Boston.

JLeslie's avatar

Is that where it’s from? I thought it was the Italians in Staten Island and Jersey using it? I don’t remember hearing people in MI using youse and definitely not my Scottish BIL. Interesting.

Seek's avatar

Could have been. Lots of Italians, lots of Irish, all emigrating at the same time to the same place. Quite a culture clash. No wonder our accents are so absurd.

JLeslie's avatar

When I was in Bath, England many years ago the Italian owner of the Italian restaurant sounded like he was from Brooklyn. My dad actually asked him if he was from Brooklyn. Nah, just an Italian speaking English, which I guess is why Brooklyn sounds like that. LOL. It makes sense that New England’s accent would be heavily influenced by the Irish and Italians though. New York has Irish, but also a huge Jewish population out of Russia a few generations ago, some Poland and Germany, and other scattered parts of Europe, which I think influenced the accent a lot. And, slang, although much of the slang is actually Yiddish. Especially in the Bronx and Manhattan.

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