The first rule of Southern English: Y’all is plural

October 20, 2011

Why do people who aren’t from around here use the word “y’all” incorrectly? As I am feeling a strong urge to help those people speak Southern English the right way, I am hereby providing an explanation of the proper use the word “y’all.”

The first part of the explanation is easy to understand. “You” is singular, and “y’all” is plural. Simple enough, right? Well, here’s where it gets a little more complicated. You see, there’s second plural form of “y’all.”  It’s “all y’all.” I have officially named it the “double plural.”

Below are three hints to help you speak proper Southern English in a New Orleans minute.

1. If you are one person to whom I am speaking, I will refer to you as “you.”  (If you’re talking to me and only me, please don’t call me “y’all.” If you do, I will know immediately that your family comes from north of the Mason-Dixon Line.)

2. If you are in a group of two or more people to whom I am speaking, I will refer directly to all of the members of that group as “y’all.”

3. If you are in a group of two or more people to whom I am speaking and if, at the same time, I am speaking to another group of two or more people, I will refer collectively to all of the members of both groups as “all y’all.”

For example:

“Would you like to have lunch on Monday?” (I’m speaking to one person.)

“Would y’all like to come to the house for dinner after church on Sunday?” (I’m speaking to a group of people.)

“Would all y’all like to come to the house for Thanksgiving dinner this year?” (I’m speaking to my sister and brother-in-law, who are sitting in the den with me watching a college football game on the big-screen television, while at the same time, I’m speaking to my mom ‘n’ ’em, who are sitting at the dining-room table, talking amongst themselves.)

NOTE: The second rule of Southern English has to do with your mom ‘n’ ’em. I’ll tell all y’all about it in a future post.


4 Responses to “The first rule of Southern English: Y’all is plural”

  1. Dale Short Says:

    The best explanation of this phenomenon I’ve ever seen. And elegant in its clarity! Look forward to seeing the mom ‘n’ ’em sequel.


    • Thank you.

      On a related topic, I once heard someone — I think it was a drug-addled stand-up comedian, but I can’t be sure about that — refer to the Mason-Dixon line as the Manson-Nixon line. Works for me.

      I also plan on writing a post about double cousins. I know of some double cousins in St. Clair County. Ya got any of ’em up in Walker County?


  2. padrooga Says:

    Don’t forget, All Y’all’s is plural possessive…


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