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My wife was discussing pudding consistency this morning and used a sentence along the lines of, "I only like the pudding you make". I blinked and asked if she really liked the pudding I make and she replied, "No, I mean the pudding you make, you know, like if I were to make some pudding". She was using the "you" in a sense of a hypothetical person, I guess, like saying, "That's what you do in a crisis" when commenting on a riot scene in the news. You're not using "you" to refer to the person you're speaking to, but rather a form of general humanity.

Anyhow, is there a term for such a usage such that you might be able to answer, "Oh, sorry, I was using 'you' in the [term] context, not referring to you specifically"?

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en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generic_you - for 'you' in situations where you might more formally say 'one', which I think is what you're getting at ("that's what one does in a crisis"). – aPaulT May 2 '14 at 11:43
That does seem to be exactly it. :) Do you want to post that as the answer? – Sean Duggan May 2 '14 at 12:29
up vote 3 down vote accepted

This is (according to Wikipedia at least) known as "generic you".


In more formal English one might use "one" instead of a generic "you".

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