Several dictionaries I have consulted, as well as another question here on English.SE, state that the origin of the word goodbye is “God be with ye”.

Shouldn’t it be “God be with you” or perhaps “God be with thee”, or did the preposition with really take the nominative?

  • 2
    As this NGram shows, historically, "God be with ye" is vanishingly rare by comparison with ...you. OED says goodbye is essentially a contraction involving you (with ye as a bracketted alternative). But in speech it would usually be unstressed, so exactly how it was written would be largely irrelevant anyway. Sep 16, 2014 at 13:27
  • @FumbleFingers I think you are missing the point that ye also functioned as an oblique form in Middle and Modern English. Furthermore, you cannot trust N-Grams before 1800 in any event.
    – tchrist
    Sep 16, 2014 at 17:44
  • @tchrist: No need to go that far back - OED's own citations include Dickens' Old Curiosity Shop 1841 ‘Go thy ways with him, sir,’ cried the sexton, ‘and Heaven be with ye both!’. Personally, I have no real interest in whether the usage was ever "grammatical" or not - I was simply making the point that relatively speaking it was never exactly "common". Sep 16, 2014 at 18:15

2 Answers 2


It is an error to believe that ye was only used in the nominative or vocative; it wasn’t. The word ye was sometimes used as the object. The OED says:

3. Used as objective (accusative or dative) instead of you (in plural or singular sense).

And provides many citations, of which these are but a few of them:

  • 1594 Marlowe & Nashe Dido iv. iv, ― For this will Dido tye ye full of knots,··Ye shall no more offend the Carthage Queene.
  • 1613 Shaks. Hen. VIII, v. iii. 181 ― As I haue made ye one Lords, one remaine: So I grow stronger, you more Honour gaine.
  • 1667 Milton P.L. ii. 840, ― I··shall··bring ye to the place.
  • 1820 Byron Mar. Fal. v. i. 198 ― Was not the place of Doge sufficient for ye?
  • 1840 Dickens Old C. Shop lxxii, ― ‘Go thy ways with him, sir,’ cried the sexton, ‘and Heaven be with ye both!’
  • 1847 Halliwell Dict. (1889) I. p. xiv/1 ― I’d soon yarn sum munney, I warrant ye.

Notice how Marlowe even has it going both ways.


Objective you/ye was probably based on stress contrast like in Modern Dutch jij/je, Flemish gij/ge, or French toi/te. Sprachbund thing I guess.

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