This seems like an easy question but I couldn't find an answer after spending about ten minutes searching. I think it's because it's hard to create a good search engine query for this question.

The closest answer I found was this: Should there be a comma between 'you' and 'darling' here?. But, the two scenarios seem a little different.

I distinctly remember being taught by my English teacher that there is a comma between you and the object but whenever I see it these days in a book or newpaper, the comma seems to be missing. Which is correct?

  • 2
    The comma is the pause. When you say it aloud, how does it sound? For me, there's no comma. Sep 15 '20 at 5:18
  • The rule you recall is if the you is followed by a name or similar address. So in yiur case, use a comma if telling a peson named Three to move it. Or if you said “You three, Tom, Dick, and Harry, get off your...”
    – Damila
    Sep 15 '20 at 5:23
  • 1
    'You three' is composite, a complete 'vocative': a single reference to a specific trio. In 'You, darling/John, will have to do it, there is a 'renaming' of a single referent, and hence the comma. Sep 15 '20 at 16:23
  • I can imagine a pause after "You three" if the speaker was getting their attention before telling them to get back to work. I might represent it as "You three - get off your butts and do some work".
    – user888379
    Sep 15 '20 at 20:47

Well, unless the person being called is named "Three" (which I find highly unlikely), there shouldn't be a comma between "you" and "three," as Mr. Ashworth and Damila explained above in a comment. After all, "you three", taken together, is a vocative—a composite one—which means that it must be directly followed by a comma.

The difference between your question and the one you linked to is that, in yours, "You three" is a composite vocative (as I've already mentioned), whereas in that question, only "darling" is a vocative; "you," there, is merely the object, the target, of the idiom "here's to."

If it helps, compare "Here's to you, darling," to the following sentence: "I hate you, darling." "You" isn't being used to address someone–only "darling" has that function. "You" is merely the object of the verb "hate." The same can be said about "Here's to you, darling." On the other hand, in "You three, get off your butt and do some work," "you" and "three" are used collectively to address someone.

I hope to have been of help.

  • @jsw29 Are you talking about Edwin Ashworth's comment? The only thing I took from it was the term "composite vocative." My answer was written before I read the comments. What changed was that I replaced all instances of "multi-word vocative" with "composite vocative" after reading Edwin's comment. I mean, this is pretty basic English—it's a given that two correct answers would sound similar, as there's very little room for interpretation here. If you still think that this warrants an acknowledgement, I'll edit my answer accordingly. I'm new here, so I'm not sure where the line is drawn.
    – user398789
    Oct 24 '20 at 15:56
  • @jsw29 I see. This was indeed a faux pas on my part. I'll make sure to fix my answer. Thanks for clearing this up for me! I do disagree with one point, however; Mr. Ashworth's answer incorrectly addressed (as far as I can tell) the OP's secondary doubt (why her scenario is different from the one in the answer she linked)—that's the reason why I decided to answer it in the first place: to clear that up. So our answers, taken as a whole, aren't really "the same." Nevertheless, you're correct in saying that the part of the answer specific to the title of the question is indeed the same.
    – user398789
    Oct 24 '20 at 20:00

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