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Y’all or Ya’ll? The Southern Word Even Southerners Misspell

by PatrickApril 19, 2016

It’s a common Southernism, but when it’s time to use it in writing, many people aren’t sure whether it’s y’all or ya’ll.

“Y’all come back!” Or maybe it’s, “Ya’ll come back!”

Clearly one is correct and one is not, but why? Let’s take a quick review of the contraction.

Contractions are shortenings of words that place an apostrophe in the place of letters have been deleted.

For example, do not becomes don’t, and the second o is removed, so an apostrophe is placed where the missing letter was.

Should have becomes a single word and the ha of have is replaced by an apostrophe: Should’ve. (Please make sure you never, ever use “should of,” which is definitely wrong.)

That’s how contractions work.

In the South, we like to say “you all” when we’re referring to more than one person in the second-person plural form. (Once in a while, some Southerners actually use the contracted form of “you all” to refer to a single person in second person.)

Modern English does not really have a plural second person pronoun: officially, it’s you for both single and plural. So here in the South, where we have a reputation, deserved or not, to be more hospitable, we just decided to create our own to include everyone.

But while we may occasionally say “you all” when trying to be slightly more formal, we more commonly use the contracted version.

Based on the above examples of how contractions work, you probably have already concluded what the proper form should be, and you get the gold star if you said it should be y’all. Y’all shortens “you all” by dropping the ou and placing an apostrophe in their place.

“Ya’ll” is just a misspelling.

I think I understand why “ya’ll” happens, though. It’s a word that is much more often spoken than written, and I think it gets confused with contractions like I’ll and you’ll, both of which add the apostrophe before the ll.

So now you know the story of y’all and how to properly spell it. Y’all be sure to come back tomorrow for my next post!

Patrick is a Christian with more than 25 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

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3 Comments on "Y’all or Ya’ll? The Southern Word Even Southerners Misspell"

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The pronoun is slang “ya”, not “you”.
The contraction is of “ya” and “all”.
The apostrophe is for “a” in “all”.

See ya later.
See ya all later.
See ya’ll later.

The back-to-back “a” vowels between “ya” and “all” are too difficult to pronounce;
therefore, an apostrophe replaces the second “a” to make the contraction, “ya’ll”.

Anyone who thinks different,
ain’t from ‘round there.


Aislinge Kellogg You’re right that y’all IS the plural of you, but the apostrophe indicates the letters deleted from “you,” specifically the OU. 

If you were going to say “you all will” do something, the contracted form of that would the awkward “y’all’ll,” which would likely only serve to confuse.

Ya, as in “see ya later,” is a dialect, but you’d still return to the original word “ya” was evolved from to get “y’all.” And “ye” is technically the plural of “thou,” so “ye all” would seemingly be redundant.

Aislinge Kellogg
I want to see if I’m right about the interesting marriage between You, who goes by “Ya” and All, nicknamed “‘ll”. We’ll let these go head-to-head in just a moment. Unlike most Americans and maybe some Europeans who may have encountered this kind of unique and very telltail sign of Southern inflection-speaking individuals. And it’s even more telling for some even more localised dialects. I’ve been to southern, northern and western Florida – and while many of its inhabitants are transplants from other states, I’ve heard three different dialect-driven differences, somehow. I thought about the term a lot, especially since… Read more »
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