I've never thought about it but now that I think of it..

In this conversation for example :

Person A : thanks for coming.

Person B : no problem.We fishermen have all the time on our hands right now. There're so few fish these days, you would think the sea was dead.

To who refers the " you would think " ? The conversation partner (A) ? But that is just what B think why would (A) think that ?

People always use "you" instead of "I" when speaking their minds to someone even if they're talking about themselves. Why?

" A: Why do you you go that place?

B: that place is the best place in the world YOU don't get bored there there's always something to do." Why not I don't get bored?

marked as duplicate by Edwin Ashworth, David, Davo, Mari-Lou A, Mark Beadles Jul 30 '17 at 15:36

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It is what the OED describes as "an indefinite personal pronoun" - sense 8, of you. Its earliest reference in that mode is from circa 1555.

  1. Used to address any hearer or reader; (hence as an indefinite personal pronoun) any person, one (one pron. 17a).

c1555 Manifest Detection Diceplay sig. D.iiiiv The verser who counterfeatith the gentilman commeth stoutly, and sittes at your elbowe, praing you to call him neare.


This construction is known as the "generic you" or "impersonal you". It is usually not meant to refer to the speaker specifically, but to an unspecified or generic person (which might also happen to include the speaker.) In other words, it's not really swapping "I" for "you" but swapping "one" for "you".

As for why this construction is used, well, that's a very broad and loose question. Some prescriptive grammarians would say that it shouldn't be! The most practical answer I can think of to give you (the specific you) is that the nearest grammatical alternative is to say "one would think that..." and that sounds archaic anymore.

It's probably also worth noting that some people really do use the word "you" when they mean to say "I". To an uninformed observer, those cases might even look a lot like this one. However, this isn't strictly a linguistic phenomenon, but also/rather a psychological one, known as "projection" :P


Well it's confusing , I mean if someone tells you '' there was a thief stealing from my house yesterday , normally when you see a thief in your house you try to catch him right?, I didn't I was afraid I just hid.''

I'd understand you here as if he talking to me.

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