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It is my understanding that the contraction y'all was considered correct American English in times past. At what point was this word removed from valid American English?

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When it became apparent that it was the Texans using it. Otherwise somebody would end up comparing Texans to upper crust British - which obviously sometimes is true in regards of attitude. ;) –  malach Sep 17 '10 at 13:45
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Do you have a source for that? I don't think "y'all" was ever "correct" written English. If you go back far enough in "upper crust British English", "you" was the plural of "thou," so "y'all" wouldn't have been necessary. –  Joel Spolsky Sep 17 '10 at 14:32
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What about "you all"? "You all" is frequently used, yet somehow "y'all" is improper? It's a short step from "We would like to thank you all for coming" to "They'd like to thank y'all for kindly droppin' in." –  mmyers Sep 17 '10 at 14:53
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Hey, we southerners are just trying to fix a broken language that doesn't have any distinct 2nd person plural pronoun. I'm all for the legitimacy of "Y'all." –  JohnFx Sep 17 '10 at 16:23
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The only time one should use "y'all" in "proper American English" is when one is responding to the importunate proud parents of a newborn baby who demand to know "Which one of us do you think the baby looks like?" The diplomatic answer to this is "Why, the baby looks just like y'all!" –  Dilip Sarwate Feb 1 '13 at 19:39

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

It was never considered "proper" English; however, as cited above, it fills the need of the otherwise-absent second-person plural. It's very common vernacular in the South and some of the West of the United States. I'm not aware of it commonly being used outside the United States.

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I agree entirely. In fact, in Australia, we only use 'y'all' in a comical satirical manner. –  J D OConal Sep 18 '10 at 2:06
    
As a Yank, y'all works great when I'm intentionally being overly-colloquial. –  Wayfaring Stranger Oct 2 at 19:04
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What do you mean it's not "proper" (whatever that means)? Have you ever lived in the South? Just because it's not considered "proper" in one part of the country doesn't mean it can't be "proper" in others. –  guifa Oct 2 at 19:48

An argument for the superiority of "y'all" over "you guys," which fills the same grammatical niche in other parts of the US that "y'all" does in the South.

  1. Economical: one word, one syllable.

  2. Nonsexist.

  3. Gracefully takes a possessive. "Is that you guys's new minivan?" vs. "Is that y'all's new Tesla roadster?"

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And let's not forget the merits of "y'all're" vs. "you guys're", the latter of which is quite inappropriate excepting the rare case your speech partner is in fact a jet of boiling water shooting out of the ground. Then again, I've met my fair share of people who fit that description... –  txteclipse Oct 2 at 23:41
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Not just possessive — as @txteclipse points out, it nicely takes on other contracted forms: y'all're, y'all'll, y'all've, y'all'd... y'all'd've and y'all'll've even work in speech quite nicely (and are regularly used). Or even crazier, y'all's'll've (those things which belong to you and others will have...) –  guifa Oct 3 at 1:02

Y'all is actually never correct - especially in written English.

Above, several people have noted there is an absent second-person plural pronoun in English. This is untrue. Thee/thou/thy are the second person pronouns in English, singular and plural; you is our third person pronoun, singular and plural (ye is the antiquated plural). It is not unusual for pronouns in languages related to English to be the same for singular and plural forms, typically we are changing the verbs to indicate singularity and plurality. Thee/thou/thy/thine sound quite antiquated in English today. This phenomenon of the second person becoming archaic-sounding has happened with Romance languages as well, especially in Mexico. In Spanish, this is the vosotros form which is not heard often in Mexico, in late antiquity, second person plural also became less common in the Latin language. It is quite typical for languages to behave this way over time. Y'all is a stand-in for words that people generally feel are uncomfortable to say or they lack other words in their lexicon to get the meaning across. In absolutely every case, the word "you," can replace y'all. This happens in several other instances in English - you guys, you lot, and other stand-ins that are two words are grammatically correct, although that is not the most efficient use of the language and they should be avoided. Dang, darn, friggin', etc. are other stand-ins for words that people feel uncomfortable saying in company - the y'all problem is much more closely related to people feeling silly for saying old words (just as they do for avoiding profanity) than it is to there being a problem with the language. It could also be said it is a lack of education about the language; that is not judgmental, it is just true.

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You have a lot of interesting factual information here, mixed in with unsupported opinion. Since you say that "you" works for "y'all" in every instance, what is it about saying "you" that would make someone uncomfortable? Would you say that William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor have insufficient knowledge of English? Both of these well-regarded writers used "y'all" in dialect. –  Theresa Oct 2 at 19:17
    
You is third person, singular and plural? Pray tell, what are he, she, it and they? And basically, people say y'all because they do not want to say you, because that is too old? I have to say, you bring it convincingly. –  oerkelens Oct 2 at 19:27
    
There is some evidence that "y'all" entered American English from a Scots expression that is still in current use. Furthermore, use of "y'all" is contemporary among New York teenagers. Link: dialectblog.com/2011/02/15/the-remarkable-history-of-yall –  Theresa Oct 2 at 20:14
    
How, pray tell, is saying you guys to mixed company remotely more correct than saying you all when we all or they all are perfectly correct. The only difference is that since both we and they are unambiguously plural, the postfixed all serves as a sort of emphatic. You can also say, correctly and in formal English, you three or you boys, so there's no sensible grammatical reason to prevent you all. Contractions (y'all is just a contraction of you all) are, of course, not normally recommended in formal registers, but that doesn't make it incorrect. –  guifa Oct 2 at 23:33

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