The personal pronoun you is the second-person personal pronoun, both singular and plural, and both nominative and oblique case in Modern English. The oblique (objective) form, you, functioned previously in the roles of both accusative and dative, as well as all instances following a preposition. The possessive forms of you are your (used before a noun) and yours (used in place of a noun). The reflexive forms are yourself (singular) and yourselves (plural).
|Person (gender)||Subject||Object||Dependent possessive (determiner)||Independent possessive||Reflexive|
In standard contemporary Modern English, you is both singular and plural; it always takes a verb form that originally marked the word as plural, (i.e. you are, in common with we are and they are). This was not always so. Early Modern English distinguished between the plural ye and the singular thou. As in many other European languages, English at the time had a T-V distinction, which made the plural forms more respectful and deferential; they were used to address strangers and social superiors. This distinction ultimately led to familiar thou becoming obsolete in modern English, although it persists in some rural English dialects. Because thou is now seen primarily in literary sources such as the King James Bible (often directed to God, who is traditionally addressed in the familiar) or Shakespeare (often in dramatic dialogues, e.g. "Wherefore art thou Romeo?"), it is now widely perceived as more formal, rather than familiar. Although the other forms for the plural second-person pronoun are now used for the singular second-person pronoun in modern English, the plural reflexive form "yourselves" is not used for the singular; instead "yourself" is used for the singular second-person reflexive pronoun.
Although there is some dialectal retention of the original plural ye and the original singular thou, most English-speaking groups have lost the original forms. Because of the loss of the original singular-plural distinction, many English dialects belonging to this group have innovated new plural forms of the second person pronoun. Examples of such pronouns sometimes seen and heard include:
Although these plurals are used in daily speech, they are not always considered acceptable in formal writing situations.
You is derived from Old English ge or ?e (both pronounced roughly like Modern English yay), which was the old nominative case form of the pronoun, and eow, which was the old accusative case form of the pronoun. In Middle English the nominative case became ye, and the oblique case (formed by the merger of the accusative case and the former dative case) was you. In early Modern English either the nominative or the accusative form had been generalized in most dialects. Most generalized you; some dialects in the north of England and Scotland generalized ye, or use ye as a clipped or clitic form of the pronoun.
The specific form of this pronoun can be derived from Proto-Indo-European *y?(H)s (2nd plural nominative). It is most widespread in the Germanic languages, but has cognates in other branches of Indo-European languages such as Ved. y?yám, Av. y, Gk. humeis, Toch. yas/yes, Arm. dzez/dzez/cez, OPruss. io?s, Lith. j?s, Ltv. j?s, Alb. juve, ju. In other Indo-European languages the form derived from *ws (second person plural oblique) began to prevail: Lat. v?s, Pol. wy, Russ. [vy].
In the early days of the printing press, the letter y was used in place of the thorn (þ), so many modern instances of "ye" (such as in "Ye Olde Shoppe") are in fact examples of "the" (definite article) and not of "you". This use of letters in printing may have indirectly helped contribute to the displacement of thou by you, and the use of you in the nominative case.