I know that the pronoun WE is first person plural.

Does it contain the listener?

When I am referring to a group of people, sometimes it seems to have the listener in the group. Sometimes doesn't.

Can somebody give me a clear definition?

  • 3
    It's a reasonable question, but in fact English does not distinguish what's called "Inclusive we" (me and you and maybe others) from "Exclusive we" (me and somebody else but not you). Many other languages do, however: in Indonesian, kita is inclusive, but kami is exclusive. Nov 27, 2022 at 18:43
  • In Quechua, there are two forms of the word, to make this distinction. Nov 28, 2022 at 1:27

2 Answers 2


There is no definition; the speaker and listeners must figure out who "we" refers to by context.

In spoken English, the speaker may use open hand gestures to signal an inclusive "we".

In writing, additional words can clarify the degree of exclusivity: "We Canadians ..." or "As parents, we ...". The antecedent may be clear from the preceding text, eg,

Canadians have long loved hockey. We're learning to love soccer, too.


Q: "What are you up to today?"
A: "We're going to the park."


There are at least 4 variations of "WE" :

The normal cases are :

(1) "WE" including the speaker & the listener & others.
A Parent telling the other Parent "WE should get ready early tomorrow to go to the Picnic" , with the "WE" including the kids.

(2) "WE" including the speaker & the listener , excluding the others.
The Parent continuing with "WE should hide the snacks until we reach the Picnic Destination" , where the Initial "We" excludes the kids.

(3) "WE" including the speaker & others but excluding the listener.
A neighbour asking about the Picnic , & being told "WE are going to the National Park" , where "WE" excludes the listening neighbour.

The unusual case is :

(4) "WE" including the speaker but excluding the listener & all the others. [[ this is the royal WE ]]
A Monarch (Queen Victoria ?) saying "WE are not amused" , where "WE" is the Monarch.

  • 1
    The 'Royal We' was actually only used when making official statements (the monarch as representing the nation). It's not certain that Queen Victoria really said "We are not amused", and if she did it was probably (3) - "We ladies..." Nov 27, 2022 at 14:57
  • 4
    There's also at least one other unusual usage, 'patronising we' [@mplungjan's answer here] as in "And how are we all doing, then?" [(5) "WE" excluding the speaker but including the listener/s and perhaps others in the listener's group]. What a lot of things we do use 'we' for! Nov 27, 2022 at 15:38
  • I have updated that Sentence to reflect that dubiousness @KateBunting
    – Prem
    Nov 28, 2022 at 10:34
  • 1
    Indeed , there are more which was why I started by saying "at least 4 variations" , where I did not include (5) Your Example of "Patronising WE" [ I thought of that as "Sarcastic WE" but turns out that there are "Kindergarten WE" + "Hospital WE" ] (6) The technical "Editorial WE" + "Authorial WE". [ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nosism ] @EdwinAshworth
    – Prem
    Nov 28, 2022 at 10:43

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