Wildest Bill and Others: Why Do Y'all Say "Ya'll?"

What does it stand for? Yarn troll? Yak pull? Yam hell? Yakuza thrill?

Help me out here.

“Y’all” is a contraction of “you all” and is a third-person plural. English lacks a third-person plural. We have “you” meaning “you, Gadarene”, and we have “you” meaning “you people”. Spanish has usted, which means “you” singular, and ustedes, which means “you plural”, meaning “all of you people here in the room”.

It’s actually very handy to be able to say either, “Do you want some iced tea?” meaning “Do YOU want some iced tea?”, or, “Do y’all want some iced tea?” meaning, “Does everybody here want some iced tea?”

I lived in Dallas for a while and enjoyed being allowed to use it. When I moved back to Illinois I had to stop and I’ve always mourned its passing.

And it’s pronounced “yawl”. One syllable.

Well I’m not southern, and I don’t say “y’all,” but I’m pretty sure I can help you.

It means “You all,” as in “all of you” or “you guys.” It’s a southern plural for “you.” Despite carrying a southern trash stigma in northern circles, it is one of the more useful slang terms around. English lacks a split between plural and singular second person forms, and this does sometimes lead to confusion. I had an uncle who insisted, for this reason, on using “you’s” whenever addressing more than one person.

I have seen southerners complain that those who mock them and they’re speech paterns wil often use “y’all” incorrectly, using it to refer to or address a single person. Real southerners will only address groups with the term.

Obviously, this should be “their.” I don’t why I would put down “they’re,” but I do know that I should have proof-read that post.

And DDG, I believe you made the mistake I almost made when you referred to “y’all” as a third person term. We have plurals and singulars for the third person: “him” or “her” versus “them.” “You” is second person. Easy slip to make.

DDG (and Varlos, now that I’ve previewed)'s right. It’s the plural of you. Think of it as Southern for “youse guys” :slight_smile:

My dad was a Green Beret at Ft. Bragg in 1968. One of the northerners he worked with asked this same question, but pronounced it “you all”.
Dad: “What? I’ve never said ‘you all’ in my life!”
Yankee: “Sure you do, all the time–‘You all do this, you all come here’…”
Dad: “No, it’s y’all. pronounced like Y-A-W-L. ‘You all’ is the trailer you rent when you move.”


A southern compatriot of mine drilled it into my head that “y’all” was the third person singular, not third person plural.

“All y’all” is the third person plural.

I firmly believe that this information should be spread to every other redneck inbred hick in the … um, er, I mean every other fine upstanding citizen in the southern half of our great nation.


I think Gadarene was more concerned with the misspelling of y’all as ya’ll; see how the apostrophe is in the wrong place there? It’s like using the’yre rather than they’re.


Are ya’ll asking why some people spell ya’ll “ya’ll” instead of “y’all”? Well, as ya’ll might know, I generally spell ya’ll “ya’ll” instead of “y’all”, so ya’ll may be interested in my explanation.

Hell, before I really paid any attention, I figgered all ya’ll spelled “ya’ll” “ya’ll”, just like I do. But then I discovered ya’ll spell “ya’ll” “y’all”. I learned ya’ll are different from me (don’t worry ya’ll, that’s OK by me). So I gave ya’ll’s way of spelling “y’all” some thought.

I reckon ya’ll are familiar with the informal spelling of “you” as “ya”, as in “How ya doin’?” Ya’ll know there ain’t no “you” in “ya’ll”, so it’s gotta be “ya” instead of “you” in “ya’ll”, ya’ll know what I mean? Then I start to realizin’, well, hell, “ya’ll” is really a contraction of the informal “ya all” instead of the more proper “you all”.

Ya’ll still with me? But then I got to doin’ some more thinkin’. If “ya’ll” is a contraction of “ya all”, which one of them “a”‘s is it that’s a disappearin’? Is that apostrophe replacing the “a” in “ya”, or is it replacing the “a” in “all”?

Well ya’ll, about that point I figgered it don’t make no difference nohow, just a matter of personal taste, if ya’ll ask me. Ya’ll understand now?

Ohhhhhh. Yeah, that would make more sense.

Despite Cabbage’s beliefs to the contrary, the misplaced apostrophe seems, to me, to be simple poor spelling, perpetuated by common use. If Wildest Bill and others regularly used “ya” instead of “you,” than perhaps I would think differently – but they don’t, so I don’t.

Thanks, Flymaster and OneChance. :smiley: Apparently I should’ve been more clear; I just assumed people would read the title of the thread more carefully. And you know what happens when you make an assumption–you make an ass out of you and umption.

Thanks for the explanation, Cabbage. It still looks weird to me, but I’ll accept that you have a particular and deliberate reason for saying “ya’ll” instead of “y’all.” In most cases, however, I’m inclined to agree with Varlos; it seems to be carelessness or poor spelling.

Hence the inquiry in my OP…y’all equals “you” and “all.” If ya’ll was “ya” and “all,” I’d think it’d be pronounced a bit differently. “Yah-ll” rather than “yawl.” shrug I’m just nitpicky, I suppose, but seeing “ya’ll” in a post always vaguely bothers me.

Oh, and DDG: I went to high school in Oregon, went to college in North Carolina, and came back to Oregon with a slight southern accent and a penchant for saying “y’all.” The accent’s gone, but the penchant lingers–and I still get teased about it by my friends.

What do y’all want from me? It’s convenient!

(Thanks for carefully explaining to me what “y’all” meant by the way, guys. You must’ve thought I was slow or somethin’. ;))

To tell you the truth. I have no clue what the proper spelling of the word is anymore. I use to spell it “y’all” then people said, “hey dude you’re spelling it wrong.” So then I would use “ya’ll” for a while and then people would say, “hey dude you’re spelling it wrong.” :eek: . So now I just spell it the way I feel like spelling it that day knowing I’ll be making 50% happy(which is better than none)

I love the term “ya” too.

More than you wanted to know bout you all:

I still write it ya’ll. y’all looks funky to me.

I’m surprised ‘youse’ isn’t more popular. Maybe the Rat Pack killed it, as thier popularity waned and ther ages increased ‘youse’ slowly went the way of the Crooners.

Ya’ll or Y’all is as much Jerry Springer as it is Southern, hence the popularity. :rolleyes: Lord I miss ‘youse’.

punk snot dead,

Since this is a word used primarily in speech and only rarely in writing, it should be no surprise that there are some spelling variations. I have never used it in writing myself except in casual online conversations. At first I spelled it “ya’ll”. I didn’t give the issue a lot of thought, but when I was eventually questioned about it my explanation was similar to Cabbage’s. I usually write “y’all” now, since most other people find that spelling more acceptable, but I still think it looks a little weird. This is probably because other contractions do not reduce the first word to only one letter, and because “'ll” is a common ending for contractions while “'all” is not. Okay, so other “'ll” contractions are those that contain “will”, but even so if you are used to seeing “he’ll” and “she’ll” then “ya’ll” seems to fit the pattern even if the meaning is not the same.

Oh, and however you spell it, it is always plural. Only foolish Yankees think otherwise.

Hi y’all!

Had to check in on a thread regarding my favorite piece of slang.

I’ll have to agree with previous posters - I think “ya’ll” looks like a misspelling that indicates ignorance on the part of the mis-speller. Drives me nuts - and one of my partners persists in using that spelling!

But to each his own, eh? I generally try to restrain myself from correcting others’ spelling, grammar, etc. I must admit I slip occasionally - and “ya’ll” is one of my more frequent corrections. I think I assume that the misspelling is due to lack of knowledge, since the word isn’t in dictionaries, so I’m just doing my bit to fight ignorance. :slight_smile: I’ll try to remember that some people just think it looks better that way. ::shudder::

I sometimes use “ya” for “you” in informal conversation (both spoken and written). But when native-y’all speakers split the words out, it is not “ya-all”, it is “ewe-all”. At least where I live & surrounding areas. The contraction “y’all” almost entirely drops the “you”, keeping merely the initial “y” sound plus the word “all”.

Y’all know those northern morons who insist they know the correct use of y’all and are wrong, yet proceed to make snide comments based on their arrogant ignorance, in the face of greater knowledge? They tend to annoy me just a mite.

Personally, I think “y’all” should be phased out in favor of the much more entertaining “you’uns,” pronounced “yinz.” It’s infinitely more colorful!


I think you might be the first person outside of Pittsburgh who has ever referred to “yinz” in a positive light. Hmm…I think I remember reading that you used to live in Ohio? That would make sense.

Anyway, for bravery in advancing bad western PA slang, remind me to buy you an Iron City if I ever meet you.

Jagoff. :wink:

If the floating apostrophe bothers you, wait until you hear the oft-used second person plural possessive variant, “yawlziz” which I imagine is spelled “y’all’s’s” but I’m not sure. It is only mean to roll off the tongue and does not sit prettily on the page.

And all is a great all-purpose (hey!) softener… “What all needs to be done?” “Who all is coming to the movie?” “Fuck all y’all!” “He was all yeeeah and I was all like, um, noooo!”

It’s beautiful.