Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I want to hear about your first week. Send us an answer back with Hedwig [Harry's owl].
(A note from Hagrid to Harry, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

Oxford(British English, informal) me : Give us the newspaper, will you?

Hagrid uses ‘us’ instead of ‘me,’ and the dictionary says it’s not only Hagrid’s expression. Then when you say to your friend that ‘would you like to come my home?’, do you also say ‘would you like to come our home?’? (In Korean, I can say even 'our mother' to my friend, indicating mine. Is it also proper in English?)

share|improve this question
1  
add comment

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I've heard Americans use, what is known as the 'Majestic Pronoun'; this "royal we/us" form in speech, but I never use it. Is this 'proper' usage? Sure. Such stuff is just a matter of personal preference in spoken and informal written English. I suppose it fits some folks' definition of being modest by not emphasizing themselves by saying "Send us a letter" instead of "Send me a letter", "Give us a call" instead of "Give me a call", etc.

The expression our mother, however, is another issue. This usage is only, really used by the king or queen. Most Americans wouldn't use this expression unless referring to the common mother of the speaker and listener or the common mother of a group (2 or more) siblings. Using the royal we/our here can sound pretentious for anyone but the king and queen.

The same goes for our home. I don't say home when I mean house or apartment (but that's another dispute), and I don't say our {house / apartment / place} unless I'm talking about where my family (wife & son) and I live. When I lived alone, I always said My {house / apartment / place}.

share|improve this answer
    
I can't get past your first sentence: "I've heard Americans use this "royal we/us" form in speech, but I never use it.". They use it, but they don't? The rest of this feels more like opinion than fact.... –  Pureferret May 20 '13 at 18:52
    
@Pureferret: See that 2nd pronoun: "I"? Some Yanks use it, but Bill Franke doesn't. Usage answers are all about opinion. Don't be fooled by "descriptive linguistics", which means only that the linguist or "usage expert" describes as objectively as possible what people actually write & say before prescribing what someone should say or write. Do you know why people use the royal we? Where are your facts? Personal experience is a legit basis for some answers: I'm 70, not 17. I've added supportive "facts" to my answer. –  user21497 May 21 '13 at 2:03
    
My Apologies. For some reason I parsed out the I in my quote, and I read it as: "I've heard Americans use this "royal we/us" form in speech, but never use it.", thus my confusion. When I questioned the rest of your answer I meant the way it comes across; compare these two: "Only the king or queen gets to say this naturally" vs "This usage is only to be used by the king or queen, in most circumstances.". Ultimately I respect your opinion on this, and thank you for adding that citation. –  Pureferret May 21 '13 at 11:43
1  
@Pureferret: You're welcome. And thank you for the challenge. I don't mind being challenged. Sometimes I'm wrong. I'm happy that I found that particular citation. I should've done that the first time. –  user21497 May 21 '13 at 12:06
add comment

Just a note to document Bill Franke's answer, which reflects my own experience of US usage:

OED notes this use of us for me as "dial. and coll." (ie, dialectal and colloquial). It offers an 1828 citation, but it's certainly older than that; the last verse of Robert Burns' Auld Lang Synte (1796) starts

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie's [ie, give us] a hand o’ thine!

But OED does not cite corresponding uses of we and our, only the "royal and imperial" and authorial or editorial uses.

share|improve this answer
add comment

No, this particular colloquial use of us for me is restricted to the word us as an unstressed pronoun after the verb; we or our cannot be used in this sense.

In fact, all the examples I can think of have it as the indirect object of an imperative sentence: Give us a bit!, Show us your new car, Send us a note, or the syntactically similar benefactive: Cut us another slice!.

I don't think people use the construction with a direct object, as *Follow us or *Watch us.

share|improve this answer
    
As Wikipedia points out (now linked in my answer), Margaret Thatcher was criticized for using the royal we. She said: "'We have become a grandmother' was UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's statement to the press in 1989, on the birth of her first grandchild, Mark Thatcher's son Michael.". Most unnatural except for the Queen, I'm sure you'll agree. Who knows (or cares) what Maggie said in private? –  user21497 May 21 '13 at 2:13
    
The 'royal we' is utterly different from this construction. –  Colin Fine May 21 '13 at 15:53
    
How is it utterly different? That's a strong but unsupported claim that contradicts both UK and US sources. Why should I credit your claim? We are not amused. (8-O –  user21497 May 21 '13 at 21:22
    
Which sources does it contradict? StoneyB's reference to the OED specifically distinguishes it from the "royal and imperial" usage, which does include we and our as well as us. Hagrid uses us in this way, but I don't think you'll find him using we in the royal way. And as I pointed out, I'm pretty sure this us has even further restricted distribution. –  Colin Fine May 21 '13 at 23:09
    
Your statement implies that Maggie's usage was not the royal we. I'm sorry, but when she or other politicians use we that way, it's the royal we. There's no difference 'twixt a close-range rubber bullet in the eye & a lead slug in the eye, or an ice pick & a ballpoint pen, for that matter. They all blind you, destroy your brain, & you die. They're both lethal at close range. One is called a lethal weapon & the other something else, but that's one of those "semantic" cavils. Where did this usage come from if not from the royal we? Even the Queen would use an unstressed us after give. –  user21497 May 21 '13 at 23:32
show 1 more comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.