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What are youse guys doin '?. Expressing plural you in English. Historical perspective. subject object possessive possessive determiner pronoun thou thee thy thine you you your yours. Why did thou disappear?. 16 th /17 th century :

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what are youse guys doin

What are youse guys doin'?

Expressing plural you in English

historical perspective
Historical perspective

subject object possessive possessive

determiner pronoun

thou thee thy thine

you you your yours

why did thou disappear
Why did thou disappear?

16th/17th century:

shift towards French T-V (tu−vous) system

you: showed respect

thou/thee: expressed familiarity, but also contempt and superiority

use of 2 nd person singular 1
Use of 2nd person singular (1)

“Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?”

(Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare)

use of 2 nd person singular 2
Use of 2nd person singular (2)

“…Hallowed be thy name.


…thine is the kingdom…”

(The Lord’s Prayer: King James Version)

use of 2 nd person singular 3
Use of 2nd person singular (3)

“I’ll see thee then” /sɪ ðɪ/

(Fred Trueman, Yorkshire cricketer)


“Watching the people get lairy

It’s not very pretty, I tell thee.”

(‘I Predict a Riot’, Kaiser Chiefs: 2004)

ambiguity 1
Ambiguity (1)

Text message:

“Hi! I’m going to go out and have a bite to eat, would you like to come along?”

(Languages, literature and the pursuit of dreams, Olle Linge: http://www.snigel.nu/?p=7239)

ambiguity 2
Ambiguity (2)

You as plural form, while correct, is never used, here, ever. It is ALWAYS modified to you all, y’all, or some such. The girl would def think u meant just her! :)


Lexical forms:

you guys you two you both you all

More synthesized forms:

yous youse youz ye yinz y’all


The increasing acceptability of you all in the southern US, and the spread of yous in Britain… suggests that, in future, the singular-plural distinction may even be restored to Standard English.

(Beal 2004: 71)

forms searched for
Forms searched for

you guys, you people, you folk(s), you girls, you ladies, you men, you boys

you lot, you all

yous(e)/youz(e) and y’all/yall

corpus sample
Corpus sample

1990−94 US 1990−94 UK

1995−99 US 1995−99 UK

2000−04 US 2000−04 UK

2005−09 US 2005−09 UK

non regular instances
Non-regular instances
  • Plural forms used to address a single person
  • Plural forms used redundantly
  • Plural forms used to stereotype a dialect
you all
You all

At the end of the game, the tannoy announcer boomed out, `We are proud of you all".

(UK 05-09)

"As you all know, this is a challenge," Jennings wrote in an e-mail to staffers released by ABC.

(US 05-09)

you guys
You guys

So I have decided to step down at the end of the season at a time when, thanks to you guys, the viewing figures have never been higher.

(UK 05-09)

I love working with you guys. (UK 00-04)

You guys are great. (US 05-09)

you guys as a vocative
You guys as a vocative

‘Listen you guys,' she said. ‘I'll tell you everything you want, just give me time to speak.' (UK 00-04)

That meant periodically being tough on our own staff and saying, 'Look, you guys, we want to constantly be challenging ourselves…’

(UK 05-09)

gender specific use
Gender-specific use

You guys and gals are forever asking us what we want.

(UK 90-94)

generic usage
Generic usage

“You guys seem a little young to be married," he said, sitting down again. "That's what our parents said." Wendy took John's hand and smiled up at him.

(UK 90-94)

you people 1
You people (1)

How many times do we have to tell you people!? (US 05-09)

“I can't work with you people," Zoe said. (US 05-09)

“Why can't you people leave me alone?" he says. (UK 05-09)

you people 2
You people (2)

"What a killer crowd out there," he later said before playing 'Tarantula'. "You people are amazing! This is the best festival in the world!" (UK 05-09)

you people 3
You people (3)

Overall, the nation's preferences run instead to phrases like “alienated youth," “ghetto kids," “them,” or “you people," and in more hateful moments, “punks," “wolf packs," “welfare queens," ...”

(US 90-94)

you people 4
You people (4)

[Student examples of racism include] referring to others as ‘you people’. (US 95-99)

…the racial animus was less equivocal in the messages posted to the union's website by irate citizens denouncing the strikers as "you people" and "monkeys." (US 05-09)

you people 5
You people (5)

And the independent candidate Ross Perot alienated Black supporters by referring to them as “you people” at a campaign rally.

(UK 90-94)


‘Indians commonly use you people when they want to address more than one person. They do not realize the belittling, racial connotations that it carries with it -- for them it is a simple translation of [the Hindi] aap log or tum log.’

(Language in India: Jason Baldridge, 2002)

y all1

“But I grew up in Georgia," he adds, as if to avoid that very issue. “You don't have an accent," she objects.

He smiles and drawls, “Would y'all li-i-ke some i-i-ce in your w-i-i-ne?” (US 90-94)

y all2

To John Kerry, on how to win the election:

DO: Talk straight to the gun-loving Bible freaks in the South, whom you apparently have to appeal to in order to win the presidency. Try to use the word y'all as in, “Salutations, y'all.”

(UK 00-04)

y all s as possessive
Y’all’s as possessive

Is this y'all's car?

Is this ally'all's favorite color?

(About.com: How to use y’all correctly)

singular y all
Singular y’all?

Madam Governor, y'all seem like a reasonable bitch, an 'a stone-col 'playa, as well.  (US 00-04)

singular y all1
Singular y’all?

Despite the assurance of some emails that have been passing around, y'allis plural. Only an absolute idiot would use it as a singular pronoun.

(Urban Dictionary)

y all and all y all
Y’all and all y’all

"Are y'all going to the movies?"


"Are all y'all going to the movies?"


singular youse
Singular youse

“God, Belle, youse'll have to dress up," Alice MacKechnie said.

(UK 90-94)

Are youse leaving, Ned? (US 90-94)

“God, it looked better in the dark,” said Mrs Looney. “Will youse stop complaining!” said Looney.

(UK 00-04)

generic use of yous
Generic use of yous

Yeah, the cops put you through all kindsa hell. They'll beat yous up just for still standing on the block two minutes after they told yous to go away ...

(UK 90-94)

youse plural noun
Youse + plural noun

I'm playing tennis outdoors, what are youse guys doin’?

(US 05-09)

And youse lot expect me to take you seriously.

(UK 05-09)

functions of plural you forms
Functions of plural ‘you’ forms

Reducing ambiguity:

Said Woods: "Really, I couldn't care less. For me the big issue is getting the ball in the hole. I'm sure this is a good story-line for you guys, but I look at it and say […. etc.]”

(UK 05-09)


"How many of you guys are single?" (UK 05-09)

“Diverse as your backgrounds may be, you all now have one thing in common: You are all Americans," (US 05-09)

connotation 1
Connotation (1)

The sooner we're done with all you people, the better. (US 05-09)

I take it you folks all know each other.

(US 00-04)

Thinking of all of youse and missing you very much. (UK 00-04)

connotation 2
Connotation (2)

But then came the giveaway. He called us “you guys". No one could imitate Blair's “you guys" in that all-mates-together tone.

(UK 00-04)

function of redundant forms
Function of redundant forms
  • Emphasis on plural
  • Inclusion
why teach these forms
Why teach these forms?
  • Students planning to live or work in English-speaking countries
  • Disambiguation and emphasis
  • Learn and understand about connotations of different locutions