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In an essay written by two nameless authors speaking in plural first-person narrative, how would one refer to a single one of the two authors? For example, suppose Alice and Bob are the authors of the following, but the reader is not expected to know Alice or Bob's name:

We went to Mexico for our honeymoon. _____ [Bob] had never been to Mexico.

It could be written:

We went to Mexico for our honeymoon. Bob had never been to Mexico.

But that doesn't work because the reader doesn't know Bob's name yet. (Here, it's pretty obvious to the reader from context, but in another situation it might not be.) It also seems to imply that Alice is now speaking for herself in singular first-person.

We went to Mexico for our honeymoon. My husband had never been to Mexico.

That doesn't seem right either, because "we" conflicts with "my," again changing the sense of the narrator.

Is there a clever grammatical resolution to this?

  • Won't the start of the letter say something like "Greetings from Mexico by Bob and Alice"? So the reader will know the name already. If not, context will lead pragmatically to figuring that you wouldn't be talking about some Bob who had not gone to Mexico and so is presumably one of the authors. As an aside, I'm curious, are the two authors writing alternate sentences or alternate words? I've always wondered how that works. – Mitch Feb 6 '15 at 14:54
  • I cannot fathom how a story can possibly have a plural narrator. The narrator of any story is always in the first person singular. Even if you’re imagining that two people are reading/dictating the story line in complete sync, the narrator is still each of them individually—and in a case like this, unless you use names, they will simply not be in sync when Alice says “my husband” and Bob says “I”. The pronoun we semantically means “I and [someone else (sg/pl)]”. There is no getting around the singular. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 6 '15 at 15:04
  • Why not start with, "Bob and I went to Mexico for our honeymoon." – Jim Feb 6 '15 at 15:06
  • @Jim because that is singular first-person narrative, written by Alice. In this case it's important that the narrative be plural (joint authorship). – TypeIA Feb 6 '15 at 15:22
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    In that case, surely the names of the authoring parents will be on the application form and thus known to the reader, and it's quite safe to just use names? Doing so does not imply that only one person is speaking for him- or herself in your case: “We went to Mexico for our honeymoon. Bob had never been to Mexico before, but Alice had.” – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 6 '15 at 15:27
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The only possible way seems: We went to Mexico for our honeymoon where one of us had never been before.

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    And if it's necessary to specify which one, you could put it in parentheses: We went to Mexico for our honeymoon where one of us (Bob) had never been before. That makes it clear that Bob is part of the "we" being talked about. – Nicole Feb 6 '15 at 14:43

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