Assuming in the phrase "who we are," the "are" represents identity, what does "are" actually mean or what could it most closely be translated to for the phrase to still retain its original meaning?

"Are" seems far too vague to use as a descriptor. Please see the following abstract example:

Liberty is who we are.

  • 1
    what we represent ...
    – JMP
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 7:24
  • "Who we are" is fanciful phrasing. The more direct way to say it would be "We are liberty". To build on JonMark Perry's comment, another phrasing would be "Liberty is our identity".
    – fixer1234
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 9:05

2 Answers 2


Liberty is who we are.

This is actually an answer to a question.

Who are we?
Liberty is who we are.

In a vacuum, with no phrases or sentences around it stating the question

Liberty is who we are.

is an answer looking for the question.
This would be a way a speaker or writer could get the listener or reader to become part of, or actually create, a dialog. A dialog that has only one side articulated by voice or written word. The reader or listener would be the other side , becoming, in the mind, a part of what is written or said.
This might not be a bad method of getting the attention of an audience or readership.
"Are" is the correct form of "to be" to indicate "we" exist.

We are liberty

says the same as

Liberty is who we are.

but places no burden on the listener or reader to determine the question .

  • I'm afraid I can't follow this. Liberty is who we are might technically be the answer to the question Who are you? but I fail to understand why this is an invitation to a dialog. Why isn't it a statement of fact or policy? I can't think of a reasonable context where We are liberty makes any sense, whereas Liberty is who we are is slang for "our major concern is liberty".
    – deadrat
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 11:36
  • deadrat,,,,,,,,I cannot imagine why a statement such as "Liberty is who we are" would be made except to create questions that have not been articulated in a listeners head............."Just what do you and liberty have in common?" ......".Liberty is who we are!"----------------------------"Liberty is who we are" may well be slang for "our major concern is liberty"m but, I do not relate to that meaning. to the phrase. For me "liberty: is a tautological abstract in all these phrases, I do thank you for the comment. You have given me something to think on.
    – J. Taylor
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 16:17

I’m so glad deadrat said that before I had to stick my neck on the block…

‘Liberty is who we are’ might be considered an invitation only with prior knowledge; never by itself. OP Kiara clearly labelled it an ‘abstract example’, not ‘the point.’ If that’s Perry of Liberty International then it clearly is 'a statement of… policy' and equally clearly his phrasing, not Kiara’s was ‘fanciful’ - if not ‘pretentious.’

‘who we are’ is ‘our identity’ or ‘what defines us’ or ‘what matters to us’; some combination of the qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and/or expressions that constitute a group…

If that was a serious question rather than an cocktail-lounge ice-breaker, Kiara, then you think, therefore you are and in your case the phrase is a plural or generalisation of ‘Who I am:: A mom, a survivor, a learner, an explorer…’

Slightly sideways, 'who we are' is almost the other end of Goldie Hawn's 'I am we the people' Protocol; 1984

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