Who knows what Texans in 1886 would have thought of that Yankee writer’s opinion of our beloved “y’all” when he first penned those words in The New York Times (“Odd Southernisms: A Few Examples of Quaint Sayings in South Carolina”). I’m sure no Texan was reading the Times in 1886, but if they were I suspect they would come to the same conclusion Texans do today: “Well, bless his heart. His opinion is about as welcome as an outhouse breeze,” which is probably where the old-timers would have taken that paper and put it to good use. Today, we’ve apt to chuckle at the pretension of such uppity New Yorkers and put the paper to use picking up after our dog.
“Y’all” has become ubiquitous, not only in Texas and the South but thought the world. A number of years ago my wife and I saw a refrigerator magnet in an Israeli shop that read, “Shalom, Y’all.” Of course we bought one. But in Texas it’s as common as Dr Pepper, BBQ, and Tex-Mex that many Texans cotton to the notion that we invented the word. We didn’t—as distressing as that might be to some of my fellow Texans. The etymology is murky, but the word certainly migrated either from Appalachia or Southern states like South Carolina into Texas. However, “y’all” never sounded sweeter than when it is spoken with a Texas twang.
Unfortunately, many of y’all, good Texans all, are confused about the proper use of “y’all” and “you”—and y’all’er embarrassing all the rest of us who knows how to speak proper Texan. The old saying applies: “Better to keep your mouth shut and seem a fool than open it and remove all doubt.” So, to help all y’all keep y’all’s Texas bonafides in good order, I offer this definitive guide to “Y’all.”
y’all /yôl, yahl/ (n) second-person-plural pronoun, contraction of you-all.
Simple Uses of “You” and “Y’all”
When referring to one person, use you.
When referring to two people, use y’all.
When referring to three or more people, use all y’all.
Note: Under no circumstance should you use “you all” to refer to two or more people.
Double Contractions of “Y’all”
The possessive of “y’all” is y’all’s.
“You all are” is y’all’re.
“You all have” is y’all’ve.
“You all will” is y’all’ll.
“You all would/had” is y’all’d.
Triple and Quadruple Contractions of “Y’all”
“You all would have” is y’all’d’ve.
“You all would not” is y’all’d’n’t.
“You all would have not is y’all’n’t’ve.