Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


We is the nominative case of the first-person plural pronoun in English.

Table of contents
1 Etymology
2 Royal and editorial we
3 Inclusive and exclusive we
4 See also:


It is descended from Old English w, which was pronounced something like way in modern English. It is related to German wir, Dutch wij, Frisian wy, and Danish vi.

Other Indo-European languages that have cognates with English we include Hittite, which has wês, and Sanskrit, which has vayam.

The Latin nos represents the enclitic form of the pronoun, which is preserved in English us and German uns.

In some Romance languages including Spanish and Catalan, nos is supplemented by the word for "others" (nosotros and nosaltres - similarly in the Quebec French locution nous autres).

Written and formal spoken French retains "nous," but in colloquial French, "nous" is almost entirely replaced by the third person singular pronoun on ("one"). Verbs are conjugated to the third person singular. The direct and indirect object form is nous, and the possessive is notre/nos, but the reflexive form is that of on (se; e.g. On se calme vs. Ils nous agacent).

The oblique case of we in English is us; the genitive case is our, and the possessive predicate adjective is ours.

Royal and editorial we

The royal we (Pluralis Majestatis) is the first-person plural pronoun when used by an important personage to refer to himself or herself. Its best known usage is by a monarch such as a king, queen, or pope. It is also used in certain formal contexts by bishops and university rectors.

In the public situations in which it is used, the monarch or other dignitary is typically speaking, not in his own proper person, but as leader of a nation or institution. Nevertheless, the habit of referring to leaders in the plural has influenced the grammar of several languages, in which plural forms tend to be perceived as deferential and more polite than singular forms. This grammatical feature is called a T-V distinction.

Popes used the we as part of their formal speech up until recent times. John Paul I was the first to dispense with this practice, instead using the singular I. John Paul II has continued this practice.

The editorial we is a similar phenomenon, in which editorial columnists in newspapers and similar commentators in other media refer to themselves as we when giving their opinions. Here, the writer has once more cast himself or herself in the role of spokesman: either for the media institution who employs him, or more generally on behalf of the party or body of citizens who agree with the commentary.

Inclusive and exclusive we

Some languages, in particular the Dravidian languages, and many others such as Taiwanese, have a distinction in grammatical person between inclusive we, which includes the person being spoken to in the group that is included in we, e.g.:

This contrasts with exclusive we, which excludes the person being spoken to, e.g.:

English does not draw this distinction in its grammar.

See also:

Other usages: