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I asked my gf if her family was okay due to a natural disaster in her hometown. She replied to me, "our family are okay."

To me, I can't help smiling. I feel like she counts me in. In fact, I know that she doesn't mean that way. Both of us are not native speakers.

So, is this reply grammatically correct? Is it okay to use that way? I am not sure native speakers will think the way I am thinking.

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Our, us, we can always refer to (addressee is the person spoken to):

  • the speaker and and the addressee
  • the speaker and a third party
  • the speaker, the addressee and a third party

Some languages have different words for an us that includes the addressee or not.

In the case of "our family", it is not strange that someone would refer to their family in that way. I could tell you, or a stranger, about "our family", meaning "my family", not yours:

In our family we always married inside the family: my father married my mother, my uncle married my aunt, and my grandfather married my grandmother.

My family would surely also be correct, but some speakers prefer to use our.

I have heard people refer to our house in the same way. It is as if the speaker is not only speaking for themself, but also for the rest of the people involved:

We, members of the Johnson family, think our family is a good family. Our family is great!
We, the owners or occupants of that house, like our house a lot. Our house is lovely!

Even when only one person of the group is present, they can speak from that perspective, meaning exactly the same:

I think our family is a good family. Our family is great!
We like our house. Our house is lovely!

The same thing happens when your friend tells you about his football team:

Our team is doing great! We won the last five matches!

That does not mean you are part of that team!

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  • Excellent points! I do believe his case might be slightly different than some of these comparisons. It sounds as though his girlfriend attempted to include him as part of her family. Not often that such a genuine question is asked here.
    – Adam
    Aug 21 '14 at 13:01
  • Yes, good and thorough analysis. Makes one proud to be part of such a respectable website :-) Aug 21 '14 at 13:33
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I'm not sure that your girlfriend's reply is correct.

Assuming that she is referring to her family while including you in the family circle, the correct reply would be: Our family is okay.

If she is referring to her family as well as your family, the correct reply would be: Our families are okay.

I hope this helps.

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  • She could be using a figure of speech, anticipating the time when the two families become one. This would be so if she put (friendly) corrective stress on the our. The 'prophetic future tense' (speaking confidently of the future as if it had already come to pass {Nancy Jensen}) would be being used. Aug 21 '14 at 13:45
  • This is also true. Thank you for pointing that out. Aug 22 '14 at 5:48

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