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I shared an article in a group chat of my friends and wanted to ask for their opinions. "Curious to hear y'all's thoughts?"

But I wanted to sound proper and smart.

If "y'all" means "you all", then, what does "y'all's" mean? "yours all"? "you all's"?

Is there a way to properly ask them to share their opinion using "you all" as the foundation? Example:

Curious to hear the each of your opinions

The above would feel uneconomical and a touch demanding.

Curious to hear your opinions

Doesn't sound accurate either.

What gives? I have heard "y'all's" in use before. Has abbreviating "you all" to "y'all" given us a whole new dimension of verbiage that cannot be reverse-engineered to actual English words you can find in the dictionary?

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    Y'all is, functionally, the second person plural. In standard AmE, I was taught to use 'you' for the second person, whether singular or plural. That would yield I'm curious to hear your opinions, although depending on the situation, I might switch to the singular and ask to ...hear each of your opinions. Nov 18, 2022 at 20:56
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    Hello and welcome to ELU. You say that you want to sound "proper and smart". You say they are friends. Are they well established friends who know you well? In that case, you need not worry about sounding smart or proper. So what is wrong with "y'all's"? It's informal, and perhaps dialect, but among friends should that should not matter. It would sound phoney if I used it, because I am (a) British and (b) speak with a bit of a posh accent. It has the merit of brevity. "What is the view of each of you?" sounds stilted and a bit bossy. Personally, I like "y'all's".
    – Tuffy
    Nov 18, 2022 at 21:36
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    The standard version of the dialect "y'all" is "you". If you search here for "y'all" and alternative dialectal forms like "youse", you'll find lots of alternative ways of expressing the same thing.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 18, 2022 at 22:27
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    Curious to hear y'all's opinions. = Curious to hear your opinions. What makes you think the latter is not correct? Nov 18, 2022 at 22:34
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    “I’m curious to hear any opinions you (or y’all) are willing to share with me” is a possibility. I’ve lived in a lot of places in the U.S., and to me “y’all’s” is rare except, perhaps, in the South, where I haven’t lived.
    – Xanne
    Nov 19, 2022 at 0:44

3 Answers 3

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While "Y'all" is derived from a contraction of "You all", and much as it might sound like it means the plural "you", it actually isn't used like that. In places where it is used frequently and unironically it just substitutes for "you". It is absolutely normally for a speaker to address a solitary person as "y'all".

Given this it is best to treat "y'all" as a word in its own right and not a contraction. Therefore it shouldn't be "unabbreviated". If "y'all" is meant then write "y'all" and not any of your fancy unabbreviated substitutes.

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  • Other things that look like contractions are similar, and can't always be expanded: "can't" for instance: "Can't you do that?" is fine but "Can not you do that?" is wrong. As this answer says, best to consider common contractions as words in their own right. (And there's a whole other debate about apostrophes when writing dialect or non-standard English.)
    – Stuart F
    Dec 21, 2022 at 9:35
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    Never heard it to mean only one person. Am I talking to a whole person, or, part of a person? I think that the more people think or internalize about this stuff, the wackier it gets. Dec 21, 2022 at 16:59
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Both "you all's" and "your all's" are used.

Similarly, where I live we use "you guys" and I sometimes hear "your guys'" as the possessive. (This isn't even the most unusual possessive. There's also "you guys's" and "your guys's", where the second word is a homophone to guises.)

Obviously we would expect "you all's" if we're following the standard rules for making possessives, which is to just add 's to the end of the noun phrase. This is the same rule that gets us "the Queen of England's". Interestingly, searching finds a doubly plural version of that too, "Queen's of England's", in publications such as CNN.

I don't have a good grammatical explanation for why any of the doubly possessive forms exist.

Both forms are mentioned in Does English have a genitive case?. Here are some examples they give for "your all's":

  • I think that works with your all’s schedules. (White House press secretary Scott McClellan, March 22, 2005)
  • We’ve had a proposal that’s been out, subject to your all’s review ... (White House press secretary Joe Lockhart, June 12, 2000)

That's quite a bit of geographical diversity, since McClellan is Texan and Lockhart is from New York.

In the Tennessee Register, they say that "you all's" may be more common (as the AHD says) but it's not everyone's preferred form.

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If your question is just "what is 'ya'll's' a contraction for," it is definitely "you all's."

What are you all's opinions?

When I was you all's age...

Is it correct in usage, though? I... don't know.

I never say "you all's". I think I usually say "your guys'." I've heard people say that "you guys'" is correct, but there is no way in my mind. "When I was you guy's age"? No way is that right. I can't tell you why it's not right, just that it isn't. You all's and you guys' are exactly the same: two plural words, "you" and "all/guys," with the last word turned possessive. I guess where the confusion's at is what combination to use. Here are all the combinations:

You all's

Your all's

You guys'

Your guys'

If someone can comment and let me know which they think is correct, that would be great. Personally, for me, I would use "your guys'."

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