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Latin Grammar: Formal YOU

by Steve
(San Francisco)

Dear Latin Teacher,

I have noticed that at least Classical Latin does not seem to have a formal personal pronoun for "you," unlike Latin's modern equivalents of French and Spanish. Does Medieval Latin make this distinction? If not, do you know when this formal form developed? Does it have something to do with the growth of the nobility in the Middle Ages?

Thank you, Steve

Dear Steve,

To my knowledge, Medieval Latin does not make any use of the formal second person. There are examples in Latin poetry of using plural pronouns for singular, such as nos for I and vos for you singular. But I don't know of any example of a formal you in Latin. Does anyone else know of such a thing?

I did ask a two colleagues about the use of you formal in Spanish. Apparently it is first attested in literature in the early 1500's. Its oral use may have preceded that by decades or even centuries.

Hope this helps and thanks for asking a Latin teacher.



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