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You (stressed //, unstressed //) 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 after 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).
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In standard 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.
Everyday speech among large sections of the population in Northern England commonly used and still uses dialect versions of thou, thee, thy, and thine. In South and West Yorkshire, for example, they are expressed as tha', thee, thi' and thine. In a South Yorkshire mining village[which?] in the late 1940s, among males only the village schoolteachers, doctor, parson and children in school exclusively used the 'you' form in the singular. Children who had grown up in households where 'tha' was the norm were forcibly reminded of the standard English at school and quickly became 'bilingual' using 'you' at school and in formal settings, and 'tha' at home and with friends. There was a distinct difference in usage between males and females, possibly[original research?] due to women (who were almost exclusively homebound at that time) constantly hearing standard English on the BBC radio and at the cinema, and copying it as being more genteel. Younger women and girls used the 'you' form in most public speech, and the dialect form 'tha' rarely except perhaps[original research?] in anger or exasperation. Very old women who had spent most of their lives unexposed to radio or cinema, used 'tha' in most circumstances except, sometimes, when dealing with officialdom. In the same village[which?] in the 2000s the dialect form is now mainly used in familiar interpersonal relationships, even among people who have received higher education.
Despite you being both singular and plural, some dialects retain the distinction between a singular and plural you with different words. Examples of such pronouns sometimes seen and heard are:
Although these plurals are used in daily speech, they are generally not considered acceptable in formal writing situations.
You is also unusual in that, being both singular and plural, it has two reflexive forms, yourself and yourselves. However, in recent years third person singular themself is sometimes seen (see singular they) in addition to the third person plural reflexive form themselves.
You is usually a second person pronoun. However, in formal English, the indefinite pronoun one can be used in the third person to refer to an indeterminate person. In informal usage, English speakers often replace one with you.
You is derived from Old English ge or ȝe (both pronounced roughly like Modern English yea), 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 PIE *yū(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. yūyám, Av. yūš, Gk. humeis, Toch. yas/yes, Arm. dzez/dzez/cez, OPruss. ioūs, Lith. jūs, Ltv. jūs, Alb. juve, ju. In other Indo-European languages the form derived from *wō̆s (second person plural oblique) began to prevail: Lat. vōs, Pol. wy, Russ. вы [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 to contribute to the displacement of thou by you, and the use of you in the nominative case.