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!