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I'm trying to explain to a coworker when I use "We" versus "I" in my work emails going outside of the organization, but I don't know myself.

For example,

Hello,

This morning we were unable to connect the recovery channel at 142.201.223.154:11199. Our keys are current and have not been modified. Could you check for connectivity issues on your end? We'd appreciate it very much.

Thank you.

But then, after getting a response,

I see, thank you. It was indeed an old server we were trying to revive.

I see a range of new recovery addresses in an email from last year, but none match the user and feed addresses for this server.

[...]

Not the greatest example, but I've thought about this distinction before too, and I remember noticing myself using "I" more when I'm at fault, or possibly at fault, or admitting something. As an investigation continues, if the correspondent asks more details, I reply using "we," except when I'm not sure my thoughts are correct, in which case I use "I." Why is that?

English is my first language, and I don't think I'm alone in switching up these pronouns this way. But what is the logical pattern behind it? And more practically, how can I explain it to a non-native speaker of English?

  • To clarify, in those email example, it was just me who was "unable to connect the recovery channel," and trying to revive the old server. – Andrew Cheong May 13 '16 at 18:44
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    It seems it's as simple as accuracy, as in whether or not you are directly representing a group of people. None of you have connection in the first case, but in the second their email wasn't passed around to everyone for everyone to troubleshoot; a single individual did so ("I"). – Ketura May 13 '16 at 19:18
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1.Whenever you want to portray a holistic action or thought of the group/team/organization then use We.

Example-

a.**We as a company always believe in serving our customers from the heart**.

2.Whenever you want to show your own individual effort/thought/action use I.

Example-

b.I am working on the issue and will keep you updated regarding any progress.

c.I really appreciate all the hard work put into this project by every individual involved.

3.Also, whenever you are interacting with any client then try to transmit team beliefs instead of individual belief.This gives a positive outlook towards the work culture and the image of the company as a whole.

-1

We is (by default) used when the work being done is not a single person's effort, rather an undertaking by an entire community or group.

we were unable to connect

Connection isn't one man's problem.

Our keys are current

Keys used are the same for everyone in the group.

We'd appreciate

If problem is solved, everyone will appreciate

old server we were trying

A large part of the group was trying to revive the server

Whereas 'I' is generally used when one person can represent the whole community. Like

I see, thank you

It means, one person has understood, and will (if required) spread the information to the entire community.(One representing the entire group)

I see a range of new recovery addresses

Checking recovery addresses is generally assigned to a particular person, he checks it on behalf of the entire group. Everyone does not check recovery addresses.

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