Did I say that right? It’s been a long time since my grammer classes in school.
We often use the pronoun “you” to refer to ourselves, but is it really proper?
I’ll try to give an example.
Interviewer: “Aren’t you ever afraid while climbing that sheer rock face without safety equipment”?
Interviewee (;)) : “No, you don’t think about it. You just feel excitement. All you really think about is what you’re doing”.
Something like that.
Obviously also a long time since your spelling class. The interviewee in your example was not referring to himself, but to that class of rock climbers described, of which he is one.
It’s not the first-person. It’s the third-person indefinite. (I’m not sure that’s the right term.) It replaces “one”. (“No, one doesn’t think about it. One just feels excitement. All one really thinks about is what one’s doing”.)
I think what mangeorge is referring to is those instances in conversation where someone uses you rather than I in an attempt to distance themselves from the feeling or sentiment expressed.
It’s really quite common and I’m sure most people could catch themselves doing it occassionally.
“I’m sorry to hear about your divorce.”
“Thanks, you take a while to get over it.”
You take is a less personal substitute for “I took” or “I am taking”
Yeah, when I took Psychology in high school, the book covered this phenomenon. The speaker generalizes a statement to everyone, even though it’s really about him/herself, thus failing to “own” his or her feelings about something.
Since reading that section, I see how silly this sounds, and try to avoid that particular habit. If you listen, you may find that people do this surprisingly often.
Yeah, technically “you” is used for the third person indefinite, but in these cases you’re really saying something about yourself, not people in general (as in this sentence). You’re just not admitting it. It’s not the grammar that’s incorrect, it’s the idea it communicates that’s not quite right (although I suppose the use of “you” instead of “one” is officially improper, too).
No, No. I was talking about my grandmother. She was a stickler for proper grammar. Really!
Ok. Thanks, barbitu8.
And… What don’t ask said. You often hear celebs do it in interviews. Like when Johnny Carson look’s right at Madonna and ask’s “What does a Modonna do when she’s not working”? And she reply’s “Well, you teach your children, you go to church. You know. stuff like that”.
In journalism, “we” is used as the editorial “I.” It is not considered proper to use “I,” as sounding too egocentric. So “we” is substituted for “I.”
Merriam-Webster notes the usage, but doesn’t flag it as colloquial.
Then looking under “One”, pronoun, sense “2a”, one (!) finds
In other words, “you” can be used like “One” as an indefinite pronoun. No great surprise, except that for M-W it seems to be an acceptable usage. I suspect that this has come about because for some reason, “one” as an indefinite pronoun sounds rather stilted nowadays.
Interestingly (or not), in French On (“One”), which is used way more than “one” in English, colloquially serves for nous (“we”). I’m betting this is because the verb forms for the 3rd person singular are shorter and easier than for first person plural.
nous y allons demain (we’re going there tomorrow)
on y va demain (same thing but with “one”)
However, if you want to have “one” (people in general) as the object of the verb rather than (or as well as) the subject, you have to resort to 2nd person, like we do in English:
A la douane, on vous controle votre passe-port. (at customs, they check your passport)
A clarification. The French indefinite pronoun on is often translated as “one,” but it doesn’t literally mean the number one (which is un/une in French). On derives from Latin homo (“man, person”) which also gives rise to the French noun homme .
"Yeah, when I took Psychology in high school, the book covered this phenomenon. The speaker generalizes a statement to everyone, even though it’s really about him/herself, thus failing to “own” his or her feelings about something. "
Just out of curiosity, do psychologists have any evidence whatsoever for claims like that or is just educated instinct/guess.
I get it, I think.
So it could be the same reasoning that prompt’s a interviewer to ask questions about “A Barry Bonds” when talking to the man himself.
Sound’s kinda odd to me, but then IANAJ.