Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you heard people use the words “we” and “you” to speak about others in English?

Does it feel as if these worse are used to talk about generalizations sometimes?

If you have encountered these uses in conversation, then you have come upon a very common trend.

You will learn how to talk about masses of people or make generalizations, particularly by using the words “you” and “we” in your conversations.

This is something that comes up often, and so you will understand how it works and be able to practice using it yourself.

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Talking In Generalizations

Do you think native English speakers change around words like “we” and “you” when speaking generally?

Does it feel as if natives often speak in generalizations when referring to how people think or talk, and this is being applied to the masses?

Today we are going to talk about how this happens and how to follow along!

Sometimes, when talking about something that is known by masses of people, we tend to generalize.

Like look at that sentence above—“we” is used instead of “I” to designate that it’s more of a generalization.

This may not be done on purpose, but it’s a common trend that comes up a lot in conversation when speaking about something that may very likely happen as a generalization.

What else do we say in this capacity?

We also might say you as a more plural generalization to cover everyone.

You might also see they or them used to talk about a large group of people who tend to do the same thing or think the same way.

Today we are focusing on we and you, and really understanding what that change means.

We’re going to look at a roleplay of sorts in the form of a clip again.

This comes from a fast group conversation, and you will see how “we” and “you” can get confused in this type of conversation.

This is a really important one to practice because it comes up frequently, and it’s a source of confusion even amongst natives.

The strategy here is how to relate grammatical terms to real conversations, and identifying this will get you closer to native English.

So while this may contain a bit of confusion at first, it will help you to practice it and master it so that you can apply it to conversations.

Looking At An Example Of This

As always, it can help to see this in practice by way of a good example.

Take a look at this conversation, which originally came as a clip in the episode.

As you are looking at this, simply pay attention to where “we” and “you” is used.

Then consider why we or you was used, and who is being talked about when each of these words is used.

That’s really the focus here, and what you want to take out of this example.

Review this example, and perhaps consider looking it over twice.

Then we will go through it in depth so that you can pull the lessons out of this and really learn how to apply this to your conversations.

This example is about note taking and paying attention to pronouns so that you have a basis for this example.

Jessica: “That’s the other thing that I’m curious if this is true in other countries. Like, in, in high school in America, guys, like, we’re so worried about building up our sort of resume for college”.

Aubrey: “Right.”

Jessica: “Like, it’s not just about academic grades, like, you have to have volunteer work, you have to be a part of clubs, like if you play sports that looks good. “

Lindsay: “Right.”

Jessica: “So, it’s really crazy how much effort we put in to applying to university when, like, we’re the ones that are just paying thousands and thousands of dollars to go there.”

Michelle: “Yeah (yes), sure.”

Jessica: “We’re so worried about them wanting us, but we’re the ones paying them so much money.”

Michelle: “Absolutely. Yeah (yes). When you put it like that, you know, the whole system is really kind of messed it up.”

Take the time to review this again so that you can pull out the examples where “you” and “we” is used.

That’s the primary focus so that you can learn how this works and how it is likely to be a part of conversations.

Reviewing How This Works

Let’s take a look at how this works and what you can pull out of the example above.

This is a good point of reference and really helps to demonstrate how this works, and how you may use these words to designate generalizations about masses of people.

Let’s start by reviewing this by line so that you can see how it played out.

  • Jessica said “I’m curious–but then she changes it to “we’re” by saying “we’re so worried about.”—-> Why? This is a shared experience, and we is more collective It may not be used in writing and formal discussions, because it may not be specific enough. This is however great for group conversations or more informal discussions.
  • Jessica said “YOU have to have volunteer work YOU …clubs, if YOU play sports… —->Why? Could she have used we? Yes, or she could have said “applicants” or something like that. What does you do here? I think it starts to narrow it down and be more direct. The important thing is to understand WHO Jessica is talking about and have a little feel as to why she used you.
  • Jessica then changes– it’s crazy….WE put into…when WE’RE the ones —>brings it back to we–if you notice, she changed back and she was specific with “you” in the middle.
  • Jessica then said “we’re so worried, we’re paying so much money.” -Michelle said “when YOU put it … – here she really does mean you as in Jessica that she is talking to.

In general, Jessica started by using we to talk about this on a broader level about concerns.

Then, she changed to you to give more specific examples and you can see those play out in the conversation.

Finally she concludes with some final points using we.

Again, the key is to know WHO we and YOU are because that matters greatly.

You in the middle is different than the “you” that Michelle uses at the end—here that you is talking about Jessica specifically.

The other “yous” are people who want to attend university.

Conversations and Coffee will really help you get used to this and more comfortable with it.

This is quite valuable because you will hear so many different examples- and this can be hard to follow with MULTIPLE speakers in a FAST conversation!

Stop to think about who is the you that is being referenced, and then you can follow along and contribute to the conversation.


We can do a couple of follow up episodes on this, but remember the strategy to help you in the meantime.

Take the time to practice and to look at examples such as the one used here, and then write down some of the main pronouns used.

Be sure to analyze why they are used and what this adds to the conversation or what the speaker is trying to convey.

Then finally you want to be sure that you follow along with all of this so that you know who is being talked about.

All of this can help you to see how to speak in generalizations, how this works in conversation, and how you can contribute in this capacity.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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