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Related question: Did English ever have a formal version of "you"?

In Portuguese (and probably other languages as well), similar to what happens with the second-person, there are two words for "we": "nós" (formal) and "a gente" (informal, only used in colloquial speech). Both pronouns have the same meaning: they refer to the person who is talking and can include the hearer and/or other people.

Did English ever have this feature?

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There's slang like "us guys..." "Us guys would like some beer!" –  Joe Blow Jun 18 '11 at 23:33
    
I thought in Brazilian Portuguese they always used "a gente". Honestly, never noticed "nós". I was even told not to use it. Or maybe this is applicable only to Portugal? –  Alain Pannetier Φ Jun 19 '11 at 2:52
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@AlainPannetier: They told me in school never to use the passé simple, because it was "never used in speech". But then I met a Frenchman... –  Cerberus Jun 19 '11 at 3:02
    
@AlainPannetier: Not always. Although it is less common, "nós" is sometimes used. In a sentence like "nós somos os melhores jogadores" ("we are the best players"), the alternative "*a gente é os melhores jogadores" sounds "wrong". –  Otavio Macedo Jun 19 '11 at 11:33
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up vote 4 down vote accepted

I don't believe English has ever systematically encoded formality in the 1st person plural. There are of course constructions like "us lot", but thes paraphrases aren't grammaticalising formality as such and their use is always completely optional.

What you might look at is the dual forms of pronouns that English used to have (so there was once a difference between "wit" = "you and me, we the two of us", and "we" = "we all as a group"). By pure statistics, it's conceivable (but I've no idea if this was actually the case or what data is available) that the dual forms occurred more often in "intimate" settings and so were 'de facto' informal forms in some sense.

Also consider the practice of using "one" as an honorific alternative to "I" or "we".

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Is "one" ever actually used in place of "I" or "we"? –  rintaun Jun 19 '11 at 8:01
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Has "one" ever been used in place of "we"? One would have thought this wouldn't happen, since "we" is plural and "one" is singular. –  Peter Shor Jun 19 '11 at 10:48
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@Peter, It's used that way all the time in French, but I have yet to hear it in English. –  TRiG Jul 2 '11 at 14:27
    
@rintaun consider: We (pron.) 2. used in formal contexts for or by a royal person, or by a writer or editor, to refer to himself or herself. –  Ionoclast Brigham Apr 16 at 3:30
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