The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Page 410) defines "Fused-head NPs (noun phrases)" as follows:

Fused-head NPs are those where the head is combined with a dependent function that in ordinary NPs is adjacent to the head, usually determiner or internal modifier:

[1] i Where are the sausages? Did you buy [some] yesterday? [determiner-head]

[ii] The first candidate performed well, but [the second] did not. [modifier-head]

Now, the question is about this sentence:

[You two] are shallow.

Here, is 'you two' a fused-head NP with 'two' being a determiner-head?

If not, how should the NP 'you two' be analyzed?

  • 8
    I don’t get why this is downvoted. Maybe because I’m way less versed in syntax than yourself or the downvoters; I wouldn’t even know how to approach this Q. But on first blush it definitely appears to be an educated, meaty question on the nuts and bolts of English, precisely the kind of question we all pine for here, in contrast to the dross we do get. Anyway, I’m upvoting, whether I understand the grammar or not.
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 10, 2019 at 11:19
  • Whether CGEL would consider it a determiner-head or not, you two isn't the same construction at all as the first two, which are what I would label as Conjunction-Reduction instead of Fused-Head. You two is not referential, but deictic, and it's just another pronoun construction like both of you or we in the know, where context determines. Sep 21, 2019 at 23:11
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    @JohnLawler I don't understand why it matters whether the NP in question is referential or deictic or neither. Note that 'some' in [1i] is neither referential nor deictic, whereas 'the second' in [1ii] is referential.
    – JK2
    Sep 22, 2019 at 2:33
  • Because there is no referent to be missing. Conjunction reduction on the head noun of an NP requires identity of reference between the two Ns in the conjoined constituents. You two is merely a dual pronoun, no more fused than y'all. Sep 22, 2019 at 3:09
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    @DanBron I absolutely agree, you are absolutely correct, and I am embarrassed and ashamed as an EL&U member on the part of the downvoters. Sep 25, 2019 at 23:12

2 Answers 2


Here, "you" acts as the determinative and "two" as the head.

In The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (pp. 421-422), the following is written about "we" and "you" in the context of fused-head noun phrases:

The fused-head analysis avoids the need to recognise a large amount of overlap between the pronoun and determinative categories. In the present grammar there are just four items that belong in both categories: what, which, we, and you.


We regard the we/you students construction, therefore, as involving an extended, secondary use in which they [we and you] have been reanalysed as determinatives.

The we/you students construction is the same construction as the you two construction in your question. Therefore, "you" is the determinative, and "two" is the head.

Thus, if you remove "two," you are left with "you [two] are shallow," in which "you" is a fused-head noun phrase (determinative-head).


I couldn't find any previous use of the we/you students construction that is mentioned on p. 422, so I'm not totally sure where/if they mentioned it first. Nevertheless, I did find an example of the same construction using "Irish" instead of "students."

A side-by-side comparison between "we/you" as a determinative and as a pronoun on p. 422 is:

a. [We/You Irish] will have his support.

b. [We/You] will have his support.

In sentence (a), "We/You" acts as a determinative, whereas in sentence (b), it acts as a pronoun. It is quite clear that the function of "you" in "you two" is the same as it is in "you Irish."


"Two" is an appositive/appositive phrase to describe "you". For example, my sister Mary might actually be an angel. "Mary" is an appositive to rename "my sister".

According to the Cambridge definition above, "two"(not "you two") is a fused-head NP[determiner-head] like "some".

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    – tchrist
    Feb 18, 2020 at 22:27

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