Why Is Google Translate Obsessed with the Second Person Plural?

Translating second-person statements in English into a Romance language is doubtlessly difficult: standard English has only one second person form for formal and informal singular and plural uses of the second person. (Non-standard forms sometimes have a second person plural: "y'all" and "youse" being famous examples.)

But Google translate seems to render every single second-person English sentence into Italian as a request for that sentence in second-person plural. Every single time. What the heck is up with that? Surely, in almost any language, when we address "you," we address a single "you" far more often the we address a multitude. So why does Google always default to the plural you in translating English sentences into Italian? (I don't know if it does this from English into other Romance languages as well: perhaps someone could check?)


  1. Doesn't seem to happen when translating the four sentences I tried to Spanish.

  2. In French, second person plural is the same as second person singular, formal. Is it the same in Italian?

    And yes, that's the form Google translates "you" into in French.

    1. No, they are different in Italian:

      Ha -- you have f. s.
      Avete -- you have p.

      Parla -- you talk f. s.
      Parlate -- you talk p.

  3. If find it really interesting that we did recently have the other pronouns equivalent to French:

    "Thou," 2nd person singular subject informal, equivalent to "tu."
    "Thee," 2nd person singular object informal, equivalent to "toi."
    "You," 2nd person singular formal, or plural, subject or object, all four of which are also a single pronoun in French: "vous."

  4. Anonymous3:28 PM

    I think "Ye" would be the plural complement to "You", if "Thou" is to "Thee".

    Google translate always has problems. If doesn't even do that good of a job with Latin, and that's a 'dead' language!

  5. Oh yes, forgot "ye."

  6. For what it's worth it does work, but you have to use the second person singular conjugations in English: http://ur1.ca/35dqa

  7. The second person translations do work, but sometimes it takes me a while to come up with the English conjugation. Here's an example: http://ur1.ca/35dqa

  8. Wow. I just realized that the en->fr translator understands "thou complainest", but the en->it translator doesn't.


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