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ragingloli's avatar

Is it not high time for the english language to replace the pronoun "you", with separate words for informal and formal contexts?

Asked by ragingloli (49284points) 1 month ago

Meaning, different pronouns to address a friend or family member, versus addressing a business partner or generally someone you do not know closely, like the German words “Du” and “Sie”.

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21 Answers

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Why? As a native English speaker, the difference seems unnecessary and overly complicated. And now that you mention it, classist.

Demosthenes's avatar

I say we resurrect “thou” and use it as the formal second-person pronoun.

janbb's avatar

We do have that:

“You” is formal
“Youse” is informal

Caravanfan's avatar

I think it’s high time we capitalize the word “English”.

JLoon's avatar

NEIN, niemals!!
Ich bin you, und du bist you.

‘Cos dis is ‘Murica bish.

Mimishu1995's avatar

As a Vietnamese I really appreciate how English is so relaxed in that aspect. I’m tired of having to find the right word to address someone properly and how people can get attracted to their pronouns.

The English language also does an excellent job making everyone equal. I just can’t expect that in my language.

gorillapaws's avatar

No, but I’d be on board for a universally agreed upon you plural. In Virginia it’s “ya’ll” and it still makes me cringe even after moving here from California nearly 30 years ago.

Kropotkin's avatar

It’s linguistic classism.

It’s other languages that should drop their formal grammatical forms, as the Spanish anarchists did during that civil war.

omtatsat's avatar

No. In German that’s done. But it’s a headache

omtatsat's avatar

And in Australia we have ” you ” and “mate ”. And the lesser used one is ” shit head ”.

flutherother's avatar

English used to have” thou”, which was singular and related to the German du, and “you” for the plural form which was used in addressing superior individuals. “Thou” dropped out of use after the 15th century because of its connotation of inferiority. You now often hear “youse” spoken on the streets as a plural form of “you”. It sounds very common and isn’t used in polite society but it is making inroads into the language.

gondwanalon's avatar

The English language is already screwed up enough. HA!

Zaku's avatar

Maybe if someone wants people to address them “thou”, they can try specifying it as their preferred pronoun…

@flutherother “You now often hear “youse” spoken on the streets as a plural form of “you”...”
– I don? No I don’t! Who’s hearing that, and where?

gorillapaws's avatar

@Zaku “Who’s hearing that, and where?”

From this article:

“A simpler version comes from the other side of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, and has also bled up to parts of New York City: ‘youse.’ ”

It lists several regional you plurals: y’all, you’uns, yinz, youse, you all, you guys. I’ve also heard “yu’nz.”

flutherother's avatar

@Zaku I hear it a lot in Glasgow, Scotland. It is slang, but it may catch on.

Demosthenes's avatar

@Zaku I prefer “thou” but I require archaic verbal forms. No “thou are”. Thou must say “thou art”.

JLeslie's avatar

No! Absolutely not.

It’s enough dealing with formal you in Spanish, I don’t need it in English.

It’s unnecessary. You can signal formality using Mr. or Ms. Surname, let’s not add the complication of pronouns or conjugating verbs, although in English the verb would likely stay the same, but in Spanish you need to change the ending of the verb in addition to a different pronoun. I don’t know how it works in German.

English has enough problems with spelling, irregular verbs, and add for people who speak English as s second language prepositions and when to use what article can be difficult.

Jeruba's avatar

No. I don’t think we’re likely to add a level of formality as language becomes increasingly less formal. The necessity isn’t there. Instead, I would want to see two other adaptations:

(1) distinguish singular from plural “you,” as German does for “du” but not for “Sie.”

(2) distinguish between “we/us” meaning “you and me and our whole group or company” (“We have to work smarter, not harder”; “This is a big day for us”) and “we/us” meaning all of my family or group and not you (“We’re going to be away next week”; “Don’t drag us into this”).

Demosthenes's avatar

@Jeruba That’s a phenomenon known as clusivity, which some languages distinguish grammatically. I agree we could use it.

Another might be a means of disambiguating third person pronouns. “He told him that he needed to talk to her”. Whom does that second “he” refer to? The speaker or the one being spoken to? Context could help, but there are times when even that doesn’t fully remove the ambiguity.

tedibear's avatar

No. Once we start with that, we’re going to have 16 ways to say “the”.

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