June 07, 2006

2nd person plural - ustedes, ihr, y'all

Now that I'm getting back into Spanish, I find myself using the term y'all a good bit more than I used to. It fills the lack of a 2nd person plural.

Spanish has ustedes, a plural you that's used when you're directly addressing more than one person. In Spain, though it's not common in Latin American usage I'm told, there's also vosotros, which is an informal 2nd person plural. German also has a separate 2nd person plural, ihr, though this is used in informal settings and the verb conjugations are often the same as the 3rd person conjugations for he/she/it. When speaking formally, there's just Sie, not to be confused with sie (she or they, depending on context and verb conjugation), which refers to either the singular or plural 2nd person and uses the same conjugations for both.

Yet in English, there's just you and the verb conjugations only change between plural and singular when you're speaking in the 3rd person. Unless you're from the South, in which case there's y'all. Though I'm not remotely from the South, I really like having a 2nd person plural. It's nicely specific. Now it's also my understanding that some Eastern U.S. dialects have yous, but a) I'm a little cloudy on how strictly that's used as a plural term and b) I don't like it as much as y'all.

An unknown wag (certainly unknown to me) once proclaimed that, "English doesn't borrow from other languages - English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over and goes through their pockets for loose grammar." If that's the case, I vote that the next word appropriated for standard use be a second person plural and though I'd nominate y'all, I'd be happy with just about anything that did the job.

Posted by natasha at June 7, 2006 04:04 PM | Random Mumblings | Technorati links |

Australian English has youse (formed, exactly as 'ustedes' is by tacking a plural onto the singular) although not officially and if any of youse quote me I'll deny it.

Posted by: Alan at June 7, 2006 10:24 PM

It was me, Natasha. I've been using it a lot in my emails for over a year (you know, the ones you get on the 48th), and now you've picked it up. :-)

Posted by: Ben in Redmond at June 7, 2006 11:37 PM

I also favor y'all - youse is too Brooklyn for me ;)

Posted by: Scorpio at June 8, 2006 01:01 PM