Sunday, November 19, 2017
Grammar

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

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!

6 Comments

  1. Nope!

    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.

    1. Amen!!! We Southerners don’t say “you all”. If that were the case then we would say “How are you all doing?” BUT what we really say is “How are ya doing?” or “How are ya’ll doing”

      Thank goodness someone has a brain! Yankees, trying to make a buck off of our sayings on cute little signs and t-shirts, but not knowing how to spell it, so they do the contraction by using it the way they would say “you all”.

      1. This is not correct, according to the etymology of the phrase.
        It does indeed come as a contraction of “you all,” not “ya all,” which doesn’t even make sense.

        The phrase may have originated with Scottish immigrants who used the phrase “ye aw” that eventually evolved to “y’all.”

      2. Kimberly, some Southerners DO say “you all.” But the etymology of the phrase has nothing to do with the casual “ya” as in “How are ‘ya’ doing?”

  2. 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.

  3. 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 I have a tendency to pick up accents when a traveler; I came back from my trip to the British Isles with a full Scottish accent that took a week or two get back to sounding like myself. But I’d been there a month.
    But I always thought that ya’ll is the “plural” of you, which is crazy, but how else would you conjugate “you all” but to ya’ll?
    Well, let’s see if that’s right…
    Holy Sh– uh, cow! I’m wrong – totally, completely, utterly wrong! I had to laugh at that. I guess that I saw it exactly as you said: the word “will” having the w and the i dropped, rather than y missing its o and u. Still, spelled wrong? I beg to differ. It may considered regional form of slang, yes, but it is no more incorrectly spelled than “ya” and “ye”, both used to indicate specific accents, dialects, more “fancy” or “reverent” or a speaking cadence – a literary device, if you will.
    That’s not completely wrongly spelled.

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Patrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 26 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.