"Yours" is usually a possessive pronoun with an implicit noun. What is the implicit noun in the case of "yours sincerely"?


The "yours" in "Yours sincerely" is a possessive pronoun. It is a shortening of the phrase "I am yours sincerely" so the implicit noun is "I," who is presumably the writer of the letter.

Now you are asking "I am your what sincerely," and here is an interesting article from 1900 that would suggest "friend," although given the traditional valediction of "Your humble and obedient servant," I think "servant" would suffice as well.

What I think is particularly interesting is that the noun has been omitted, perhaps specifically to make this closing ambiguous, while simultaneously emphasizing that whatever I am with regard to you, it is true and without fault.

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    I don't want to seem fussy, but if "yours sincerely" is a shortened form of "I am yours sincerely", it still doesn't explain what "yours" meant. what does 'I am yours' mean? – Thursagen Jun 27 '11 at 11:43
  • @Ham Yeah, thanks, I was editing when you were commenting. I realized I'd misunderstood the question. – Kit Z. Fox Jun 27 '11 at 11:48
  • @Ham and Bacon, It could mean just that - simply 'yours'; friend, supporter, love, etc.. intentionally implicit. However, it seems there are references to servant, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valediction#Formal_valediction : "I am, Sir, your most humble and obedient servant" – Unreason Jun 27 '11 at 11:54
  • I'm curious of three off-topic things. One is if you can search NYT articles by text queries (I'm guessing so since the whole reCAPTCHA project aims to kind of OCR it (using us)). Two, why does it talk about London? And three, why is there a big white area in the middle? Don't tell me they remove the word games, they're my favorite part. – Camilo Martin Feb 6 '12 at 18:44

"Yours sincerely" is a valediction, and the "yours" is a shortening of "your servant"

Edit: Converting the link in my comment:


I beg to remain, Sir, your most humble and obedient servant, A.B.

This form is occasionally abbreviated to Your obt svt, A.B. The phrase et cetera may be used in place of the remainder of the valediction, as in
I am, etc.,

As well as

"Yours" doesn't just stand for "your servant". It can for anything from "your friend" to "your benefactor". "Yours" is just a shortened form for any of these.

  • Yep. I'm also searching for more references to confirm this. – Thursagen Jun 27 '11 at 11:18
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    Hm, without references I am not inclined to accept that etymology (because 'the possessive second person pronoun used without a following noun' is perfectly acceptable as etymology of the phrase). – Unreason Jun 27 '11 at 11:31
  • There's this link, but they seem to say most the same thing. – Thursagen Jun 27 '11 at 11:37
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    If one goes back and reads old letters, starting around the 1800s, until the current date, one will see that a full valediction, as in "I beg to remain your most humble and truly obedient servant", has over time become shortened to "Yours truly", and then, simply to "yours". – Warren P Jun 27 '11 at 15:25
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    @WarrenP It's almost as if they had cellphones. – Camilo Martin Feb 6 '12 at 18:48

I thought to quote these 2 posts from Quora, which enlarges on the existing answers:

User 'Rob Weir' 's answer:

It was common in letters to sign it with a statement of your relationship to the person, e.g.:

  • Your faithful Son,
  • Your loving Uncle
  • Your most obedient and humble servant

And so on. It became quite elaborate in some cases. For example, J.S. Bach one ended a letter to a patron as "Your Honor's and My Most Particular Highly Honored Mr. Senior's most devoted servant".

Over time and with less social formality, this was shorted to "Yours" with an optional adverb, like "Sincerely yours" or "Affectionately yours" or similar. It is a social grace, something that does not really have any deep meaning today, only a deep history.

Concerning the grammar, User 'Mike Mendis' 's answer:

Others have already provided excellent answers. To answer the sub-question regarding the meaning of "yours" specifically, I would point out that "yours" is a possessive pronoun. It stands in place of "your + NOUN."

So, for example, "This book is yours" means "This book is your book." In English letters, as other have pointed out, it was customary to end the letter with
"I am your loving son" or "I am your faithful friend"
or even "I am your humble and obedient servant" (when writing to powerful people or people in high positions such as kings or benefactors).

Over time, these longer phrases were shortened to "yours"
(just as "your book" is shortened to "yours" in the example above").
Eventually, "I am" was dropped as well, leaving simply "yours" with some appropriate adverb such as "faithfully" or "sincerely" or "truly."

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