So I'm reading a book set in the American South in the beginning of the 1900 and I stumble upon the use of the verb is with you ("you is", "is you?") in conversations: eg. "is you Samson Fuller?". I've heard this in rap songs before, but this usage made me wonder how it came about. Could someone give any insight into this? History, usage today?

(The writer also adds an s to some verbs, eg. "I doubts that", "I sees", etc. What's with that?)


2 Answers 2


The third person of the verb for all singular persons is dialectal use in some afroamerican communities, mainly.

This has been used thoroughly in literature. For instance, Jim always speaks this way in The adventures of Huckleberry Finn:

Pretty soon Jim says:

"Say, who is you? Whar is you? Dog my cats ef I didn' hear sumf'n. Well, I know what I's gwyne to do: I's gwyne to set down here and listen tell I hears it ag'in."

Nowadays, nevertheless, using dialectal writing is considered offensive by some people.


"You is," and "Is you," are typically used in literature and in life by many people from the Southern States of the United States. The primary usage dates back to the times when so many of the people from this area were practically illiterate and/or had little education as a byproduct of being heavily farming regions with little use for proper schooling. As most of the foreman and farmhands were, well, farmers, and not educators, the language was passed along to the slaves in their charge, thus leading to the misuse of the verb to be (an many others), "I seen 'em first," etc. As writers took on the task of writing about these times, so did they take on and pass along the same form of the language.

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    – KumaAra
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 0:23

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