“Y’all” or “ya’ll”?

Many regions of the United States have their own ways of saying “you” plural. Although “you” is the proper way to say this subject pronoun, local dialects choose to emphasize the plurality by adding other words or by altering “you” in some sense. In parts of Appalachia, “yons” or “yinz” might be used, whereas parts of the east say “youse”. Most commonly, however, is the word “y’all” – or is it “ya’ll”?

The word “y’all” is a contraction of “you” and “all”. When contractions form in English, an apostrophe is used to replace vowels that had previously been in an expression. An example of this would be “isn’t”. Because “isn’t” is a contraction of the words “is” and “not”, the apostrophe is used to replace the ‘o’ in “not”. That is why “isn’t” is not spelled as “is’nt”. The same rule applies to “y’all”. Since “you” is being contracted by the apostrophe, and the apostrophe is replacing the ‘ou’, the correct spelling is therefore “y’all”. Even Word processors acknowledge this spelling, despite its colloquial origin.

If one were to spell “y’all” as “ya’ll”, he or she would be implying that the word is a contraction of “ya” and “all” or something similar. Since “ya” is not a word and is clearly meant to be “you”, we know that it really is the “you” being contracted in the sentence. The apostrophe therefore stands in for the contraction of that word, and the word “all” follows without change. Y’all get it now?

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