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We

We is the first-person, plural personal pronoun (nominative case) in Modern English.

Personal pronouns in standard Modern English
Person (gender) Subject Object Possessive determiner Possessive pronoun Reflexive
Singular
First I me my mine myself
Second you your yours yourself
Third Masculine he him his himself
Feminine she her hers herself
Neuter it its itself
Plural
First we us our ours ourselves
Second you your yours yourselves
Third they them their theirs themselves

Contents

  • Atypical uses of we 1
    • The royal "we" 1.1
    • The editorial "we" 1.2
    • The author's "we" 1.3
    • The patronizing "we" 1.4
    • The dictorial "we" 1.5
  • Inclusive and exclusive we 2
    • Examples 2.1
  • References 3
  • External links 4

Atypical uses of we

A nosism is the use of 'we' to refer to oneself.[1]

The royal "we"

A common example is the royal we (Pluralis Majestatis), which is a nosism employed by a person of high office, such as a monarch, earl or pope.

The editorial "we"

The editorial we is a similar phenomenon, in which editorial columnists in newspapers and similar commentators in other media refer to themselves as we when giving their opinions. Here, the writer has once more cast himself or herself in the role of spokesman: either for the media institution who employs him, or more generally on behalf of the party or body of citizens who agree with the commentary.

The author's "we"

Similar to the editorial we is the practice common in scientific literature of referring to a generic third person by we (instead of the more common one or the informal you):

  • By adding three and five, we obtain eight.
  • We are thus led also to a definition of "time" in physics.Albert Einstein

"We" in this sense often refers to "the reader and the author", since the author often assumes that the reader knows certain principles or previous theorems for the sake of brevity (or, if not, the reader is prompted to look them up), for example, so that the author does not need to explicitly write out every step of a mathematical proof.

The patronizing "we"

The patronizing we is used sometimes in place of "you" to address a second party, hinting a facetious assurance that the one asked is not alone in his situation, that "I am with you, we are in this together". A doctor may ask a patient: And how are we feeling today? This usage is emotionally non-neutral and usually bears a condescending, ironic, praising, or some other flavor, depending on intonation: "Aren't we looking cute?".

The dictorial "we"

The dictorial we is similar to both the editorial and author's "we" but more commonly used in spousal conversations or relating to them. More often used by one person having or showing a tendency to tell people what to do in an autocratic way. Take for example the following portion of a conversation:

  • As soon as we get the rest of the brick work done (in progress) this is part of the plan...

This person is using the dictorial "we" and implying that the other will be doing the work and that they are currently behind and has more waiting afterwards. This form looks nicer and comes across as being less harsh. In spousal dialect this phrase could be loosely swapped out with the following:

  • As soon as {insert spouse name} gets off their lazy butt and finishes the brick work this is the next thing I will have them doing..."

Inclusive and exclusive we

Some languages, in particular the Austronesian languages, Dravidian languages, and Chinese varieties such as Min Nan and some Mandarin dialects, have a distinction in grammatical person between inclusive we, which includes the person being spoken to in the group identified as we, and exclusive we, which excludes the person being spoken to.

About half of Native American languages have this grammatical distinction, regardless of the languages' families. Cherokee, for instance, distinguishes between four forms of "we", following an additional distinction between duality and plurality. The four Cherokee forms of "we" are: "you and I (inclusive dual)"; "another and I (exclusive dual)"; "others and I (exclusive plural)"; and "you, another (or others), and I" (inclusive plural). Fijian goes even further with six words for "we", with three numbers — dual, small group (three or four people), and large group — and separate inclusive and exclusive forms for each number.

In English this distinction is not made through grammatically different forms of we. The distinction is either evident from the context or can be understood through additional wording, for example through explicitly inclusive phrasing ("we all") or through inclusive "let's". The phrase "let us eat" is ambiguous: it may exclude the addressee, as a request to be left alone to eat, or it may include the addressee, as an invitation to come and eat, together. "Let us" ranges from the extremely formal (e.g., "Let us pray") to the relatively informal; the less formal the usage, the more likely the usage is to be exclusive. This (somewhat) less formal use of "let us" contrasts directly with the even more informal contracted form "let's" (e.g., "Let's eat"), which is always inclusive.

Examples

Inclusive "we":

  • We can all go to the villain's lair today.

Exclusive "we":

  • We mean to stop your evil plans!

References

  1. ^ A Word A Day

External links

  • Baker, Peter S. 'Pronouns'. In Peter S. Baker. The Electronic Introduction to Old English. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003, c. 5.
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