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Second-Person Pronouns (or Pronoun Phrases)

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We’re used to the second-person pronoun being “you” (both singular and plural); in archaic works, we see “thou/thee,” and I’m told some Quakers still use “thee” in both the nominative and the accusative. “Y’all” sometimes makes an appearance.

But there are some second-person pronoun phrases as well. “Your majesty,” “your highness,” and the like are examples, though note that they take third-person singular verbs: “If your majesty wishes …” rather than “If your majesty wish ….”

This brings me to the legalese second-person pronouns. You’re likely already thinking here about “your honor”; but there’s also another such pronoun phrase: “this court.” If you’re filing a brief in (say) the Ninth Circuit, you generally wouldn’t say “In X v. Y, the Ninth Circuit held …,” just as if you’re e-mailing me, you generally wouldn’t say “In this post, Eugene Volokh claimed.” Just as you’d use “you” in writing to me, you’d use “this Court” in writing to the court about itself:

In X v. Y, this Court held ….

We don’t think about it, but that’s a second-person pronoun phrase. Or pronominal phrase, if you want to be geekier still.


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