1. Used by the speaker or writer to indicate the speaker or writer along with another or others as the subject: We made it to the lecture hall on time. We are planning a trip to Arizona this winter.
2. Used to refer to people in general, including the speaker or writer: "How can we enter the professions and yet remain civilized human beings?" (Virginia Woolf).
3. Used instead of I, especially by a writer wishing to reduce or avoid a subjective tone.
4. Used instead of I, especially by an editorialist, in expressing the opinion or point of view of a publication's management.
5. Used instead of I by a sovereign in formal address to refer to himself or herself.
6. Used instead of you in direct address, especially to imply a patronizing camaraderie with the addressee: How are we feeling today?
Appositive nouns or noun phrases sometimes lead writers and speakers to choose incorrect pronoun forms. Thus us
is frequently found in constructions such as Us owners will have something to say about the contract,
is required as the subject of the sentence. Less frequently, we
is substituted in positions where us
should be used, as in For we students, it's a no-win situation.
In all cases, the function of the pronoun within the sentence should determine its form, whether or not it is followed by a noun or noun phrase. See Usage Notes at be
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
1. refers to the speaker or writer and another person or other people: we should go now.
2. refers to all people or people in general: the planet on which we live.
when used by editors or other writers, and formerly by monarchs, a formal word for I1
b. (as noun): he uses the royal we in his pompous moods.
4. informal used instead of you with a tone of persuasiveness, condescension, or sarcasm: how are we today?.
[Old English wē, related to Old Saxon wī, Old High German wir, Old Norse vēr, Danish, Swedish vi, Sanskrit vayam]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
pron.pl., poss. our or ours,
nominative plural of I
2. (used to denote oneself and another or others, specifically or generally): We have two children. We often take good health for granted.
3. (used in the predicate following a copulative verb): It is we who should thank you.
Also called the royal we.
(used by a sovereign or other high officials and dignitaries in place of I
in formal speech.)
Also called the editorial we
. (used by editors, writers, etc., to avoid the personal I
or to represent a collective viewpoint.)
6. you (used familiarly, often with mild condescension or sarcasm): We know we've been naughty, don't we?
[before 900; Middle English; Old English wē, c. Old Saxon wī, wē, Old High German wir, Old Norse vēr, Gothic weis]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
one you we they
One is sometimes an impersonal pronoun, showing that something is generally done or should generally be done.
One doesn't talk about politics at parties.
You can also use the possessive determiner one's and the reflexive pronoun oneself.
Naturally, one wants only the best for one's children.
We all understood the fear of making a fool of oneself.
One, one's, and oneself are fairly formal. Here are some other ways in which you can say that something is generally done or should be done:
You can use you, your, yours and yourself, as we usually do in this book.
There are things that have to be done and you do them and you never talk about them.
Ignoring your neighbours is rude.
You can use we, us, our, ours, and ourselves to say that something is generally done by a group of people that includes yourself.
We say things in the heat of an argument that we don't really mean.
There are things we can all do to make ourselves and our children happier.
They can sometimes mean people in general, or a group of people whose identity is not actually stated.
They found the body in the river.
Some people use they when they are mentioning a saying or repeating a piece of gossip.
They say that the camera never lies but it doesn't always show the full picture.
He made a fortune, they say.
They, them, their, theirs, and themselves are also used to refer to words such as everyone and anyone, person, child, and student.
You can use people. This is also a fairly common use.
People shouldn't leave jobs unfinished.
I don't think people should make promises they don't mean to keep.
6. the passive
Instead of using one of these words and an active verb, you can sometimes use a passive verb. This is a fairly common use in formal writing.
If there is increasing pain, medical advice should be taken.
Bookings must be made before the end of December.
You use we to refer to yourself together with one or more other people. We is the subject of a verb.
We could hear the birds singing.
We both sat down.
You can use we to include the person or people you are speaking or writing to.
If you like, we could have dinner together.
Don't say 'you and we' or 'we and you'. Instead of saying 'You and we must go', you say 'We must go'.
You can also use we to refer to people in general, including yourself.
We need to stop polluting the planet.
Nowadays we like to think of ourselves as rational and scientific.
Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012