3

Lately I stumbled across a sentence where one person was talking to another person and used

But you was thinking about it!

I'v always used "But you were ..." in this case and assumed that it just was a mistake or a joke I didn't get (as a non-native speaker). However, I stumbled across a similar case again today! Were I living a lie?


An earlier question on EL&U, Historical usage of "was"/"were" with "you", asks about this usage during the American Civil War, whereas the current question is about contemporary usage. However, Peter Shor's answer to that question mentions contemporary usage.

closed as off-topic by Edwin Ashworth, Hot Licks, NVZ, ab2, user66974 Aug 4 '16 at 5:08

  • This question does not appear to be about English language and usage within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 2
    Possible duplicate of Historical usage of "was"/"were" with "you" – sumelic Aug 3 '16 at 7:08
  • Yeah, Peter Shor's answer was a part of why I voted to close as duplicate. Do you want a more in-depth answer than that? – sumelic Aug 3 '16 at 10:29
  • From Peter Schor's answer: "..... you was became heavily stigmatized by the end of the nineteenth century in America (though it has by no means dropped out of colloquial speech in the United States)." I would never say "you was" except maybe in a joke (you wuz robbed!), and if you are a non-native speaker, I recommend that you avoid it too. – ab2 Aug 3 '16 at 19:57
2

It's impossible to answer this without context. Using "was" (when "were" would be the correct form) may be locally idiomatic, or ironic, or stylistic, or just poor English.

For example, a common idiomatic usage is:

We wuz robbed!
Also, we was robbed or we were robbed. We were cheated out of a victory; we were tricked or outsmarted. For example, That ball was inside the lines—we wuz robbed! This expression, with its attempt to render nonstandard speech, has been attributed to fight manager Joe Jacobs (1896–1940), who uttered it on June 21, 1932, after his client, Max Schmeling, had clearly out-boxed Jack Sharkey, only to have the heavy-weight title awarded to Sharkey. It is still used, most often in a sports context.

  • So, it is actually correct to say "You were thinking ... "? – OddDev Aug 3 '16 at 7:05
  • 2
    Yes! "You was thinking" is not standard English. – Chappo Aug 3 '16 at 7:11

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.