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The plural "guys" definitely is, at least here in San Francisco — I'm often hearing all-girl companies here being greeted with 'Hi guys, how are you doing?'.

How about the singular guy? Is it universally assumed that 'the guy who will be doing this' can be either guy or gal?

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Related: What is a feminine version of 'guys'? (that question is only about the greeting, this question also asks about the singular reference. –  Mitch May 9 '12 at 13:19
    
Appearing before the California Supreme Court, Deputy DA Borris once addressed the bench as "you guys". Unfortunately, the Chief Justice asked him "To whom are you referring?" and the only female judge asked "Does that include me?" I don't know what the moral is. –  TimLymington Aug 31 '12 at 16:06
    
Try calling groups of people (any mixture of genders)'Gals' and see if there are any complaints. Just watching a wildlife programme and every animal mentioned is a he. Hardly realistic or life affirming for women. Read the paper, watch the news, cartoons, for that matter, anything, and you will see the percentage of male to females is always unbalanced. The male perspective is always proffered. All very tedious. –  user60360 Dec 23 '13 at 4:54
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3 Answers 3

up vote 48 down vote accepted

"You guys" is a familiar, all-inclusive way of addressing a group of men or women directly. That said, there are some important distinctions you must understand:

"You guys" is more likely to be said in women => women or men => men or women => men or mixed-group => mixed-group contexts. It is less likely to be used in men => women contexts, but is still heard and would probably not occasion any confusion or merriment.

The singular "guy" is another animal. It refers to males. It is also used to draw gender distinctions in a general way.

A guy walked into my store and asked for some cigarettes.

There is no doubt that this is a man we're talking about.

In most plural usages that are not directly addressing a group, this rule also applies.

Guys are pretty simple, when you get right down to it.

This will also be understood to refer to men only. If you wanted to make the same statement about women, you would use another noun: women, gals, whatever.

However, you could say something like

My friends in San Francisco? Those guys are so crazy!

Now we're not sure we're talking about men. If the speaker is female, it might mean a group of women. Note that I say might. It is more likely she would still be talking about men, but you never know.

It's a hard word to pin down. Much depends on context.

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The use of "you guys" to include women is also regional. It's common in San Francisco (where I live now), and around Cleveland (where I grew up), but when I used it in Texas where I went to university, people found it surprising and it labeled me as a Yankee (not that they didn't figure that out as soon as I opened my mouth). –  Bob Murphy Feb 9 '11 at 3:48
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In Texas, you've got the "y'all" equivalent. I sometimes find myself using this instead of "guys", even though technically I grew up above the Mason-Dixon line by a few miles. –  Joe McMahon Jun 24 '11 at 0:22
    
@JoeMcMahon - But isn't the plural "all y'all"? –  MT_Head May 9 '12 at 9:19
    
@MT_Head: "all y'all"? No, not really, or at least not in the parts of the south I've heard. "Y'all" is the plural and "you" is the singular. Adding "all" up front only sounds like emphasis to me. –  Mitch May 9 '12 at 12:25
    
@Mitch - Must be an even more localized regionalism than I thought, then. I'm from L.A., and have no right to use any form of y'all except humorously - but I have been gently corrected (by a Virginian, I think; it's been a very long time) for using plain y'all to apply to more than one person. –  MT_Head May 9 '12 at 16:15
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I would say that "guy" is somewhat gender neutral, at least in "gender neutral" contexts. Example: "Those guys are getting something to eat." Those PEOPLE are getting something to eat. (Everyone needs to eat.)

But, "Those women are all dating GUYs." The context is not "gender neutral." It's clear that those women are all "hetero."

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I agree with the posting by Innate that guys is most definitely not gender neutral, since we have gender neutral words in English that are much more appropriate such as you all, you folks, everyone, you people etc. The word guy is singularity male and the word guys can only be assigned gender neutrality if it wasn't used to describe men specifically, and which 99 percent of articles that refer to men uses the word guys. If the word men is considered sexist and non-inclusive, the word guys is right beside it.

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I know women who address groups of women as “you guys”. I’m not kidding. They’re native speakers. I’m afraid you’re going to lose this one. –  tchrist Mar 11 '13 at 22:08
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protected by tchrist Dec 23 '13 at 4:56

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