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I'm from India and in my local language Telugu there are 4 possessive pronouns that represent different combinations of speaker, the 2nd party and the group to which both the parties belong.

  1. నా: which translates to 'Mine'
  2. నీ: means 'your'
  3. మన: means that something belongs to a group of which both the speaker and the 2nd party are the members
  4. మా: refers to an object that belongs to a group where only the speaker is a member

My understanding of the word 'our' in English language is that it refers to both (3) and (4) depending upon the context. Just got curious if there are any distinct words to refer to those 2 groups without relying on context.

  • No. No such words. There are ways to imply the meanings with emphasis and context, but there's nothing straight-forward. – Hot Licks Apr 4 '15 at 3:02
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    What you're asking about is called "inclusive first person" (which includes the listener) and "exclusive first person plural" (which excludes the listener). Many languages have this feature (Malay, for Instance). English, however, does not have that feature, and whether 1plural is inclusive (Shall we go?) or exclusive (We'll pick you up before the game) is determined exclusively by context. Most English speakers never even think of asking, in fact, so it's not important information. About like whether uncle means father's or mother's brother. – John Lawler Apr 4 '15 at 3:27
  • The (contemporary) English language has no distinction of clusivity. Please research "clusivity" in grammar; "Inclusive we;" "inclusive our;" "exclusive we;" "exclusive our" -- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clusivity – Kris Apr 4 '15 at 5:47
  • Sometimes the distinction is extremely important and the speaker can obscure the intention by compromising on the context. "We are not amused." – Kris Apr 4 '15 at 5:51
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    "In English this distinction is not made through grammatically different forms of we, but rather indirectly, for example through explicitly inclusive phrasing ("we all") or through inclusive "let's"." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We#Inclusive_and_exclusive_we – Kris Apr 4 '15 at 5:56
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No. English does not have possessive pronouns that distinguish the two concepts.

If we want to specify one or the other, we rely on context or must supply further information (e.g., My team's project).

  • @user18151 Thanks for catching my double-post and alerting me. – Jim Reynolds Apr 4 '15 at 6:25
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English is context based, not verb or adjective based. What this means is that sentence word order, in addition to the context of that sentence, reveal the meaning of the words.

e.g. Our (yours and mine) father spoke with their (our friends') mother and his (some other guy's) sister.

The meaning is clear if you know the context of "our", "their", and "his." It does not make sense if you change things around.

e.g. Our (our friends') mother and his (yours and mine) father spoke with their (our friends') sister.

While the second sentence makes sense on the surface, if you remove the definitions in parentheses, it has a completely different meaning than you might intend. If you are trying to preserve the same meaning of "our", "their", and "his," you need to get the context and the word order correct.

In languages like Russian, the context and word order sometimes provide additional meaning to the sentence, but because the language is verb centric, each verb and adjective point to exactly what you intend them to mean. So if you change the word order slightly, it would still say essentially the same thing.

In English, the meaning changes every time.

Does this answer your question? Indirectly. The direct answer is no, but provides you no meaningful way to handle the problem.

  • "English is context based, not verb or adjective based." Why should that apply only to the first person pronoun? – Kris Apr 4 '15 at 5:48

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