How do english people understand "you" as formal , informal or plural

May 29, 2015


English does not have the same system of formal and informal pronouns. For very formal times, you might say "How are you today, Sir?" and make it more formal by adding another word like "Sir," "Miss," or "Ma'am"" (depending on gender and age.)

As for how we know a noun is plural, we understand from the verb form and context. Honestly it can be confusing sometimes, but from context you should know if a group or person is being referred to.

Thank you so much

Never use "miss"; always use "ms" (mizz), mrs. or ma'am. Miss is politically incorrect for a good 15 or 20 years.

We grew up with only 'you' for all occasions, so for us it is normal.

To indicate formal when speaking with someone, we will likely use formal titles. E.g. Teachers are 'Miss,' 'Sir,' 'Mrs. [last name]', etc.

Talking American English, we sometimes add words to 'you' for plural: you all, y'all (contraction of you + all), you guys, etc.. E.g. "Are you all coming?" "Y'all have any questions?" "Where are you guys going?" Also, sometimes 'you' is replaced in the plural with 'everyone'/'anyone'. E.g. "Is everyone OK?" "Anyone coming?"

Hope that helps.

Thank you so much!

In English you express politeness in other ways.

Passe-moi le sel (s'il te plaît). // Pass me the salt (please).

Passez-moi le sel s'il vous plaît. // Could you pass me the salt, please?

Pourriez vous me passer le sel s'il vous plaît? // Would you be so kind as to pass me the salt, please?

I agree, this is a good example. Politeness is shown more in sentence construction and in the words chosen.

Using "tu" is not less polite!

"passe-moi le sel, s'il te plaît." or "pourrais-tu me passer le sel, s'il te plaît ?" are exactly as polite as when you use "vous".

It comes down to slang or colloquial language. In Australian English some people say "yous" for the plural of you, and "ya" for an informal version of you. Certain British/Irish dialects share these traits.

One could use these informally but not at work for example, because they aren't considered "proper English", and you probably wouldn't use them with people significantly older than you either.

Thank you so much!

Historically, English used to have the informal (familial) you form: thee/thou. (Old enough that it's from when English was still inflected, I believe.) Many people think that thee/thou (and thine, with 'art' for the 'to be' form) are more formal, because the only places people hear them are in prayer form - but since prayers were directed to 'Our Father' - they use the familial, informal form.

It's not used in everyday speech though, and people really will look at you funny if you use it!

In modern English, 'you' is neither formal or informal, and is both singular and plural. Northern Irish dialects do have 'yous' in spoken form for plural 'you', and some Southern US dialects use 'y'all' in a similar way.

So if i use" yous" for you(plural) do they understand me again or is it meaningless

'Yous' is used by speakers of some varieties (dialects) of English, but it is not used generally outside the community which uses that variety of English. For example, in an international English language examination you would almost certainly lose a mark for using the word 'yous', since it would not be regarded as 'standard English'.

No one expects foreigners to be using such subtle slang so they would probably misunderstand you unless your accent is near-native.

You can add "all" if you need to emphasize that "you" refers to more than one person. There are different ways of phrasing it, but it is usually safe to replace "you" with "you all".

Using "y'all" or "yous" may be endearing if you're in an area where they are used frequently (such as the southern USA for "y'all"), but to everyone else, it will sound very strange, especially coming from a non-native speaker.

If you say "yous" they'll take you for someone from East New Jersey. You is both singular and plural.

Try taking this out of the Troubleshooting Section. It gives people the wrong idea, if you know what I mean.

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