In English grammar, the personal pronoun you can often be used in the place of one, the singular impersonal pronoun, in colloquial speech.

In English edit

The generic you is primarily a colloquial substitute for one.[1][2] For instance,

"Brushing one's teeth is healthy"

can be expressed less formally as

"Brushing your teeth is healthy."

Generic pronouns in other languages edit

Germanic edit

In German, the informal second-person singular personal pronoun du ("you")—just like in English—is sometimes used in the same sense as the indefinite pronoun man ("one").[citation needed]

In Norwegian, Swedish and Danish, these are also du and man.

In Dutch the informal second-person singular personal pronoun je ("you")—just like in English—is frequently used in the same sense as the indefinite pronoun men ("one").

Slavic edit

In Russian, the second person is used for some impersonal constructions. Sometimes with the second-person singular pronoun ты, but often in the pronoun-dropped form. An example is the proverb за двумя зайцами погонишься, ни одного не поймаешь with the literal meaning "if you chase after two hares, you will not catch even one", or figuratively, "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush".

Uralic edit

In Finnish, the second-person pronoun sinä can sometimes be generic, but this use is only recommended in spoken or otherwise informal language. Other constructs are more neutral, such as a verb without a pronoun and in the third person (zero person) or in the passive ("fourth person"), somewhat similar to one in English. The second person is popular largely due to the influence of English.[3] A similar formation, though without the pronoun sinä and therefore only with the second-person possessive suffix -si, can be encountered in some dialects.

Arabic edit

In Darija (Arabic as spoken in the Maghreb), there are two distinct singular second-person pronouns, one masculine (used when addressing a man) and one feminine (used when addressing a woman); but when used as generic pronouns, the speaker uses the pronoun with the gender corresponding to their own gender, rather than that of the person they are addressing.[4]

Japonic edit

In Japanese, the sentence structure may be adjusted to make the patient of an action, or even the action itself, the topic of a sentence, thus avoiding the use of a pronoun altogether.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Huddleston, Rodney; Pullum, Geoffrey (2002). The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 1467. ISBN 0-521-43146-8.
  2. ^ Quirk, Randolph; Greenbaum, Sidney; Leech, Geoffrey; Svartvik, Jan (1985). A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. Harlow: Longman. p. 354. ISBN 978-0-582-51734-9.
  3. ^ "Kielitoimisto".
  4. ^ Souag, Lameen. Jabal al-Lughat: Impersonal vs. personal "you". Blog entry, posted 2007 September 9; accessed 2007 October 2.

Further reading edit

  • Merriam Webster's Dictionary of English Usage (E. Ward Gilman, ed.) Merriam-Webster, 1993. ISBN 0-87779-132-5