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I have always had trouble when people talk to me and say "we" - because I often don't know whether that includes me or not.

"Hey, we're going to the movies." Just by that, how do I know if they want to include me or not without having to ask if I can come, too?

Some languages have this 1st Person Plural distinction of specifying whether the person being spoken to is included or not. Has this concept ever been been a topic in the history of the English language?

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No, English has never had such. PIE didn't, and no IE language that I know of marks 1pl excl/incl. It's quite common in Austronesian languages (e.g, Malay kami and kita), but not in English. As for how you figure it out, you watch who's talking and who they're looking at when they use 1pl terms. I agree, it's confusing, but in speech it's not so hard. In writing, of course, it's very hard to understand anything. – John Lawler Feb 14 '14 at 20:40
This sounds a bit like: english.stackexchange.com/questions/131436/…. In Norfolk they would say 'Are we going to the pictures, together'. 'Together is used in the sense of 'y'all', indicating others are included. – WS2 Feb 14 '14 at 20:56
They still look at me when they say we, inclusive or exclusive. I'll settle for the next sentence to determine. – Mickael Caruso Feb 15 '14 at 1:10
up vote 13 down vote accepted

Very short answer:


Slightly longer answer:

There is no evidence that clusivity has ever been a category in any Germanic language. Nor, in fact, in any Indo-European language that didn’t (like Marathi or Gujarathi) borrow it from another language (in the case of Marathi and Gujarati, from neighbouring Dravidian languages, where clusivity is exceedingly common).

Tok Pisin, which is a pidgin of English and Melanese (and thus arguably at least part Indo-European), does have clusivity, but that comes from the Melanese part of the blend, not the English part.

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I like to try and learn at least one new word every day, but clusivity would be enough to keep me happy for a week! Great word, even though apparently it hasn't made it into OED yet. – FumbleFingers Feb 14 '14 at 22:25
How about troversion, which also comes in in- and ex- alleles. – John Lawler Feb 14 '14 at 23:17

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