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.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In English, "we" has no clusivity - context is needed to determine whether it means we-including-you or we-excluding-you.

What context can a speaker provide to disambiguate without sounding awkward?

I'm wondering in particular how to reword sentences like "We need to meet tomorrow."

share|improve this question

closed as not a real question by simchona, Daniel, Alenanno, Thursagen, kiamlaluno Sep 17 '11 at 2:34

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

You and I for inclusive, we + context for exclusive. That's the best it gets. – Daniel Sep 16 '11 at 23:27
Unfortunately, you and I doesn't extend to more than two people. we + context is what sparked the question; it was the only phrasing I could think of, but it always sounds awkward to me. – daxelrod Sep 16 '11 at 23:35
You and we, then. Sometimes English just is awkward. – Daniel Sep 16 '11 at 23:39
There is not a single solution for all the cases that you might encounter. It's too broad: each time you need to see what to do. – Alenanno Sep 16 '11 at 23:44
up vote 1 down vote accepted

There is no single trick to do this, but I think that context will get you there the vast majority of the time. Consider these rules:

The context includes a group that the speaker is part of but the listener is not -> exclusive we

The context includes a group that the speaker is part of and the listener is part of -> inclusive we

The context does not include a group -> inclusive we

"You're saying the committee hasn't voted yet?"

"Yeah, we need to meet tomorrow."


"Is our team going to sit down and do the calculations before Friday?"

"Yeah, we need to meet tomorrow."


"How are you?"

"Fine, but we need to meet tomorrow."

You can clearly determine if 'we' is inclusive or not.

If all else fails, you can easily be more explicit:

"We need to meet tomorrow. You should be there, too."

Or perhaps less redundantly:

"We need to meet tomorrow. Be here at 8:00."

share|improve this answer

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