There is first person, second person and third person grammar, but what is the term for the type of grammar used when one should refrain from directly referring from specific people (you, them, me, I, she, her, he, his, etc) at all?

Similar to academic research where an author might use:

It may be seen

Rather than:

You will see

Or on SO documentation one may write:

Type the following in a terminal

Rather than:

Type the following in your terminal

Or at a last resort, or as I have done in this question, one may use:

One may use

Rather than:

You may use

  • 1
    Perhaps the descriptor you're looking for is impersonal. Sep 23 '16 at 1:01

In the first example, you are using the passive voice, which allows you to avoid specifying the agent of the action.

In the second example, you are not using the possessive, but you are still using an imperative. I wouldn't say you are completely avoiding referring to someone.

In the third example, you are using the impersonal pronoun one, which is used when you don't want to refer directly to people.

However, keep in mind that in colloquial English you is also an impersonal pronoun.

  • Thanks, I think "passive voice" is the closest fit to what I was trying to get at :)
    – Toby
    Sep 22 '16 at 13:16
  • 4
    No, it isn't. Passive voice is not a vague term about a feeling; it refers to a specific grammatical rule that you used in one of your examples but not the others. So they are not all passive voice. There is, gods know, enough incorrect information about the passive voice out there already without adding to it here. If you want a term for the style (style of speaking, not 'style of grammar'), it's impersonal. Sep 22 '16 at 13:40

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