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Thread: you was

    • Join Date: Mar 2006
    • Posts: 4

    you was


    I have heard native English speakers using from time to time expressions like "I thought YOU WAS", or "I believed THEY WAS". I would like to know if this association is basically correct or just accepted due to the mass usage. If it is correct, is there a specific context when you can/should use this combination? Any formal rules?


  1. Casiopea's Avatar

    • Join Date: Sep 2003
    • Posts: 12,970

    Re: you was

    Welcome, Ggrrigson.

    It's non-standard English. The standard usage for Subject-Verb Agreement for the verb BE (am, is, was, were, etc) is as follows:

    I believe you were
    I thought they were

    I believe I was
    I thought I was

    Note, what you've come across here is called "Paradigmatic Regularization". That's when speakers regularize irregular-verb paradigms, like this:

    all the were's become was's
    I was
    you were => you was
    she was
    he was
    it was
    they were => they was

    It's not only more efficient, it's a tell-tale sign of language change.

  2. rewboss's Avatar

    • Join Date: Feb 2006
    • Posts: 1,552

    Re: you was

    The formal rule is: It is incorrect grammar. "was" is the third person singular form, and that's all there is to say about that.

    However, "was" is used for other persons as well in several non-standard dialects of English, for example in many London dialects. Because it is non-standard, it should not be used in formal English. You, as a student of English, should never use it unless you really know what you're doing.

    There's an old joke on this subject. A teacher knocks on the door of one of her pupils. The pupil answers the door.

    Teacher: Hello. Are your parents in?
    Pupil: They was in, but they is out now.
    Teacher: "They was in"? "They is out"? Where's your grammar?
    Pupil: Oh, she's in the living room, watching TV.


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