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you, one, we Options
onsen
Posted: Saturday, April 7, 2018 7:26:50 PM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/14/2017
Posts: 253
Neurons: 4,939
Hello,

The dictionary explains the nouns 'you', 'one', 'we' as follows:

Quote:
you.
2 used for referring to people in general

one.
5 formal used instead of 'you' when you are making a statement about people in general, which also applies to yourself

we.
3 used for referring to people in general

As their explanations are almost the same, one is apt to think 'you', 'one', 'we' are used in the same way not entirely, but to some extent.
Below are examples of how they are used, shown with the result of a google search.

If you exercise every day, you’ll feel a lot better.………………………… 4 hits
(from the dictionary)

If one exercises every day, one will feel a lot better.…………………… No hits

If we exercise every day, we’ll feel a lot better.………………………… No hits

If we exercise every day, we will feel a lot better.……………………… No hits
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

One cannot be sure what lies ahead.………………………… 9 hits
(from the dictionary)

You cannot be sure what lies ahead.………………………… 2 hits

We cannot be sure what lies ahead.………………………… 6 hits
……………………………………………………………………………………………………

We live in a competitive world.………………………… abundant
(from the dictionary)

You live in a competitive world.………………………… abundant

One lives in a competitive world.……………………… 1 hit
……………………………………………………………………………………………………

How do we learn our mother tongue?………………………… abundant
(from the dictionary)

How do you learn your mother tongue?……………………… 4 hits

How does one learn one’s mother tongue?………………… 1 hit


I found there is a big difference with respect to their usage.
Please explain how to use 'you', 'one', 'we' properly, using the given specific cases, in general and the 'No hits' and '1 hit' cases in particular.

Thank you
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Monday, April 9, 2018 6:17:06 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/12/2011
Posts: 30,645
Neurons: 181,785
Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
Hi onsen!

Gosh! I can see why no-one has replied. There is no simple answer, no 'formula'.

My opinion is this.

"One" is very formal, and is not used in general conversation by most people.
It's true, there is a relatively small 'segment' of the population (particularly those educated in privately-paid schools) who do use it naturally.

It can mean "I" or "people in general".
"One wouldn't like to say that one is a genius." = "I don't want to say I'm a genius (and any genius with good manners would not say they were one, either)."
"One shouldn't break the laws of the country one lives in." = "You shouldn't break the laws of the country you live in."
- I use it this way at times, for "people in general", if I feel that "you" would make it sound too personal - as if I were warning that specific person not to break the law.


"You" is most common - it can mean "you - the person I'm speaking to" or "you - the group represented by the person I'm speaking to" or "people in general".
"You should go and look at the new Parliament building, it's very impressive." (talking to ONE person)
"You're in the Scouts aren't you?" (talking to one person) - "You should go camping at Deer Park, there are lots of facilities there." (the group should go)
"You never know when the weather will change." = "People never know when the weather will change." = "No-one ever knows when the weather will change." (people in general)
"You live in a competitive world." = "Everyone lives in a competitive world." - spoken from authority - "I know how to handle competition." - some people respond to advertisements with authority.


"We" is used less often, but regularly - usually to mean "people in general within this group which I belong to" or "people in general, specifically you and I - I am part of this too". It is more 'inclusive' than "you" or "one" in this meaning and (like "one") makes it more plain that you are not meaning "you - the person I'm speaking to". It can be used formally or informally.
"We should try to live moral lives." ("You" would not work well, it sounds too much like an order, rather than a general statement of fact.)
"We live in a competitive world." - "I am the same, but I think I have some ideas which will help you." - some people respond to advertisements which have this friendly "we all have the same problems" attitude)


**********
Your examples show this somewhat:
If you exercise every day, you’ll feel a lot better. - it's advice from someone who knows, a doctor or health expert, but it's said in an informal way.

One cannot be sure what lies ahead.
- the word 'cannot' and the phrase "what lies ahead" are rather formal. If you tried the three sentences "One can't be sure what's going to happen.", "You can't be sure what's going to happen." and "We can't be sure what's going to happen.", your resuting number of "hits" would show more "you" and fewer "one".
You cannot be sure what lies ahead. this sounds a little 'odd' as it is a mixture of formal and informal.
We cannot be sure what lies ahead. - this is naturally formal, but the speaker wants to 'identify' with the audience.

We live in a competitive world.
You live in a competitive world.
One lives in a competitive world.
- this sounds like a sentence introducing a sales-talk. The speaker wants to identify with the audience/readers. Both "We" and "you" do that ("We" is better for that use).

How do we learn our mother tongue?
How do you learn your mother tongue?
How does one learn one’s mother tongue?
- again, this sound like the introduction to a sales-pitch for a language course. "One" is too impersonal. The writer wants to appeal to the person being spoken to. "We" is used to make it even more friendly and personal.

************
So - as a very general idea (not a rule, really):
"One" is formal, impersonal and unemotional. However, it is useful in making a rule or advice less personal than "you", if needed.

"You" is more informal, and is probably the 'normal' phrase to use.

"We" is both formal and informal, but is more personal and emotional than "one"; and is more 'friendly', emotional and inclusive than "you".

*********
I hope that is all understandable.
If not, ask any further questions you have - even if I don't come back for a few days, I'm sure someone will answer.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Jyrkkä Jätkä
Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2018 4:42:21 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/21/2009
Posts: 42,108
Neurons: 427,328
Location: Helsinki, Southern Finland Province, Finland
I'd prefer using you. I'm a non-native, but one sounds a bit posh, and we sounds like a certain, known group.


In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.
Ashwin Joshi
Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2018 12:56:46 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/3/2016
Posts: 1,424
Neurons: 74,550
Location: Jandiāla Guru, Punjab, India
I am comfortable with JJ.

Me Gathering Pebbles at The Seashore.-Aj
onsen
Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2018 9:47:04 PM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/14/2017
Posts: 253
Neurons: 4,939
Thank you very much, Drag0nspeaker, for your detailed explanation. I will read it many times and make the best use of it. I often hesitate the use of 'you', because of the confusion brought about by the uncertainty of whether 'you' means the person(s) just in front of me or not. Then I’m inclined to use 'one', which, oh dear, sounds a bit posh as Jyrkkä Jätkä says.
palapaguy
Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2018 11:01:23 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 10/28/2013
Posts: 1,246
Neurons: 11,230
Location: Calabasas, California, United States
onsen wrote:
Thank you very much, Drag0nspeaker, for your detailed explanation. I will read it many times and make the best use of it. I often hesitate the use of 'you', because of the confusion brought about by the uncertainty of whether 'you' means the person(s) just in front of me or not. Then I’m inclined to use 'one', which, oh dear, sounds a bit posh as Jyrkkä Jätkä says.

Your question about "you" is very understandable. English is not based on rigid rules of grammar and, IMHO, is best learned by face-to-face interaction with native speakers. This forum can be very helpful in that regard as you have learned.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Friday, April 13, 2018 7:51:08 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/12/2011
Posts: 30,645
Neurons: 181,785
Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
Hello onsen.
I'm back.

I'm glad it helped.
Looking at it now, it may have been a little too detailed. I do become 'carried away' (too enthusiastic) sometimes.

The last small section (all in black type - no colour) is a good summary.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
onsen
Posted: Friday, April 13, 2018 11:20:31 PM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/14/2017
Posts: 253
Neurons: 4,939
Drag0nspeaker wrote:
Hello onsen.
I'm back.

I'm glad it helped.
Looking at it now, it may have been a little too detailed. I do become 'carried away' (too enthusiastic) sometimes.

The last small section (all in black type - no colour) is a good summary.


Hello, Drag0nspeaker.

Good, you’re back.
I appreciate your way of explanation.
Since your post, the use of 'you, one, we' has become easier than before.

Many thanks
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