Did English have a Formal Version of “You”?

Words like “thee,” “thou,” and “thine” are just some of the older versions of English that represent the formal “you.” This encompassed singular and plural forms along with nominative, objective and possessive cases. These were popular in language around the 14th century but fell away by the end of the 19th century.

While most people do not say these older forms of “you” anymore, it is present in older texts such as in the writings of Shakespeare or the Bible. So, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with what these are.

The Formal “You” in English

When people would use words such as “thou” or “thy,” it was a sign of respect and it displayed a command of language. The table below outlines what the second person, or “you,” used to be in Old English.

  Singular Plural
Nominative Thou Ye, You
Objective Thee You
Possessive Thine




Modern Instances of the Formal “You”

It’s very rare to hear or see someone use any of these formal ways of saying “you” in the modern English-speaking world. However, some religious acolytes and clergy will iterate them when praying or giving a sermon.

Alternatively, if someone is writing a novel or a movie script from the Old English time period, then these will appear. Yet in certain situations, people will put on modern productions based on Shakespearean literature. Therefore, you will hear these more formal versions.

Other than that, the formal “you” is no longer functional within the English language. If you do hear anyone say it in casual speech, it’s because they’re in costume, fooling around, or some other such special circumstance.

Examples of the Formal “You” in a Sentence

So you can get an idea of how they used to apply the formal “you” in speech, analyze the sentences below.

Thy [your] heart is like the moon, changing quickly and steadily.

Ye [you] brought back two pigs and three goats.

I give thee [you] this necklace as a token of my affection.

All that I have is thine [yours], which is a mere two shillings.


Words like “thou,” “thine” and “thy” are just some of the versions that people used to say. These had formal use and showed a sign of respect for the person you were addressing. While they aren’t used today, many older texts will contain these.