How Do You Say “You Are”? A British Guide to Formal Grammar


How Do You Say “You Are”? A British Guide to Formal Grammar

In American English the word you is replaced by various other forms to indicate the difference between plural and singular. You-alls is a commonly used form in the South Midland, Appalachia and Southern United States. You-in is also common in informal speech. The form you-in seems to be most frequent in informal speech.

In British English the use of you is more or less directed at the singular you. You is used for describing individuals and groups (as in you are man and you are woman) and when referring to a single person (you are a man). You is also used in a predicative expression, as in you are going away. You is rarely used in the absolute, as in you are going to get divorced. The pronoun you-all in a sentence indicates the gender of the person speaking, although it can also be used with the pronouns they/hers/his and they/hers.

In British English, you is usually softened into ye or we and you is retained as you. In many cases, you is used in place of ye (I, you, we) when describing something indefinite. Some examples, though, are you being hit (ye hits), he/she is being hit (he/she is being hit) and the singular you is used in reference to someone definite (a person).

In American English, you is usually softened into you and it is usually considered masculine (itself). When describing a person, you may use a neuter pronoun (they, them, he/she), but if you want to describe an object, you can use a masculine pronouns, as in they are (itself), they have (it is) or they are (it is). The pronoun you is not used in these sentences, because you is used in a predicative expression and is considered a Singular Pronoun. In most contexts, you is used as a Plural Pronoun in an adjectival expression.

In British English, you is usually softened into he/she and used in a relative or independent construction, as in this example, he/she is my friend. When describing something indefinite, you can use the comparative or superlative forms of the noun. In the relative clause, you can use the comparative pronoun, as in this example, They are more than three. In a superlative clause, you use the superlative form, as in This man is much better than you. The use of the relative and the superlative is very common in the United States, but less so in Britain.

In many cases, you need to adjust your language to suit the local language, and you can do this by understanding the gender system of your language. In the British English language, you usually need to soften the singular pronoun (we) in order to fit the gender of the verb (be). When you are in the United States, the singular pronoun (you) is allowed to be masculine or feminine, as it is in every other language. If you have the feeling that you are being used incorrectly when using the singular you pronouns, you can soften it up by remembering that in some contexts the plural and the masculine forms of you are used interchangeably, so there is no reason not to use one form of you-all or you-alone.