Youse are mistaken if yers think it’s singular 

Wayne Gregson in Bush Whacked, (Bendigo Advertiser, Friday December 21) paraphrases Pauline Hanson with “if youse is reading this...”.

To start with, in Ms Hanson’s post-assassination video she said “you”. To go on, “youse” is a plural pronoun and takes a plural verb  “youse are”.

It would appear Wayne has not listened to regular users of the word, who would never make that mistake.

Once upon a time English had a single second-person pronoun, thee, which also had the form thou: “I tell thee that thou shouldst not have done that”.

 This went out of fashion except for its preservation in old prayer books, perhaps because words like “shouldst” were too clumsy.

Everybody changed to using “you” when addressing one person unless the other person were God, which is odd because God is held to be three persons in one God.

Then illiterate people felt that there needed to be a plural for the singular “you” and started using “youse” – which never took on amongst people who could read and became a marker for illiteracy – but has hung on in informal speech even today when almost everyone can read.

I often hear educated people mispronouncing the word when they suppose themselves to be talking like the working class. 

Regular users have two ways of saying it, “youse” (an adjectival pronoun) and “yers” (an object pronoun), like this: “I told youse men not to do that so why are yers doin’ it?”

Michael Grounds



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