The plural of “you” is…“y’all”? “youse”? “yinz”? “you guys”? “you”?

Prescriptivists and right-wingers were all outraged back in Shakespeare’s day, when progressives and descriptivists started using the plural pronoun “you” to address a single person. It would be the death of the English language! How dare they try to change the way we speak, all for some crass political purpose!

We survived, of course. So did the language. Singular “you” didn’t corrupt it, just as singular “they” won’t corrupt today’s version of English.

But it would still be nice to have an agreed-upon plural for the second-person pronoun to replace the original “you,” which now is indistinguishable from the singular form. A recent article by Maud Newton explores the linguistic and sociological issues involved in various possibilities, starting (and ending) with “y’all.” Will it ever become standard English? Maybe next year?

Categories: Linguistics