The word "you," when used in a sentence, is always used as "you are" rather than "you is". This happens regardless of whether the speaker is speaking to one person or many. Is "you are", when applied to a single person, an example of the numerous exceptions in the English language? Is there ever a situation where it is appropriate to use "you is"?


4 Answers 4


All English verbs except the full modals have three finite forms (finite forms are those which have tense, number and person):

  • one form for present tense, 3d person singular ... full modals lack this form
  • one form for present tense, all other persons and numbers
  • one form fall past tense, all persons and numbers

The verb be, and only that verb, has two additional forms

  • one form for present tense, 1st person singular: am
  • one form for past tense, 1st and 3rd person singular: was

Here is a comparison of conjugations for be, love, and the full modal may:

        I AM     we are                I love      we love            I may      we may
      you are   you are              you love     you love          you may     you may
he/she/it IS   they are        he/she/it LOVES   they love    he/she/it may    they may

        I WAS    we were               I loved     we loved           I might    we might
      you were  you were             you loved    you loved         you might   you might   
he/she/it WAS  they were       he/she/it loved   they loved    e/she/it might  they might

So you are is not an exception; the exceptions are I am and I was. You is is not possible.

English used to have a distinct second person singular pronoun, thou, but dropped it in the course of the 16th and 17th centuries. It had its own verb forms,too (endings in -st, except be had the form thou art); but happily those were dropped, too; so there's that much less you have to to learn.


If there is an answer beyond "that's just the way it is" then it's back in the history of the development of the language.

I'm not convinced it's correct to call it an exception though. Are there languages which work the way you suggest, where the "you" equivalent takes a different form of the verb for singular versus plural? French and German are similar to English; in both cases the formal "you" (vous or sie) can be both singular or plural but the verb form is always the same; vous êtes or sie sind.

I know Spanish and Italian conjugate verbs differently for singular and plural you, but they also have different pronouns; they don't use different forms of the verb with the same pronoun.

  • Nigel, yes we have the singular "tu sei" and the plural "voi siete", but we have the singular "voi siete", too, albeit this form is considered a bit antiquate nowadays. In fact we prefer the singular "lei e'" :)
    – user114
    Apr 24, 2013 at 20:03

Whenever you is the second person singular or the second person plural, the conjugation of be for you is are.

You is not an exception: The first, second, and third person singular all use a different conjugation.

  • I am
  • You are
  • He/she/it is


  • We are
  • You are
  • They are

I think it could be, how about this one:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
I love someone
And "you" is the clue.

  • 1
    The use/mention distinction is important here; you can put pretty much any two words or phrases together, regardless of normal grammar, by simply quoting one or both of them separately and using semi-colons or the like to separate them. That doesn't have anything to do with actual usage, so it's not worth bringing up in any of these questions about usage. Jun 8, 2017 at 5:37
  • @NathanTuggy - that reminds me of those brainteasers that go something like: I can put the word and in a sentence five times in a row and still have it be grammatically correct.
    – J.R.
    Apr 3, 2018 at 14:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .