You all is the plural of you

Subject: You all is the plural of you
From: "Knox, Phebe" <pknox -at- CADMUS -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 1995 09:07:55 EST

Tracy asks if English isn't one of the few languages without
a "you" plural. Someone reminded her of "thou," but there is
a modern fix: Americans in the South use "you" for singular
and "you all" for the plural, and for exactly the same
reasons Germans (help me out here, Alex von Oberen) do -- to
express respect and not to focus too closely on anyone in
particular. I was in Savannah once and overheard a woman
talk with a man she did not know well; she used "you all"
throughout the conversation in addressing him alone. It
worked very well as a social distancer, just as it does in
French or German.

Phebe Knox

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