I've noticed that there are two types of first person plural – one where the addressee is included, and one where she or he isn't. For example:

With addressee included:

  • Let us go.
  • What's our plan?
  • Where are we going?

With addressee not included:

  • We want you to come along.
  • Are you with us?

One can see that whether first person plurals we or us includes the addressee largely depends on context. My question is this:

Is there a term for these two types of first person plurals? Are there any words in English that distinguish these two types?

If this is more appropriate for Linguistics.SE (I'm not sure) here's an additional question: Does any language distinguish between these two types of first person plurals?


2 Answers 2


Cinderella: "Hooray! We're going to the ball!"

Ugly Sister: "No, we're going to the ball. You're staying home to do the housework."

There's no single generic way to contextualise inclusive/exclusive we/us/our - in the above example, the spoken emphasis makes it clear that although Cinderella uses "we" inclusively, the Ugly Sister is definitely using it exclusively.

In other cases you might need to rely on background knowledge of what makes sense (Cameron says "We want to reduce tax rates"), or it might be implicit through other aspects of phrasing ("We will fight you all the way").

Addressing OP's specific question, the (somewhat more extensive) technical term is clusivity, but we also often refer to the inclusive (or exclusive) we.

I'll also just note that in many spoken dialects, inclusive you can include the speaker - "I like this place! They give you whatever you want!".

  • Why the down vote? There's a perfect example, even.
    – Kris
    Apr 15, 2012 at 18:19
  • @Kris: I think I have a secret [antonym of admirer] here on ELU. I'll upvote yours though, because I think it's worth noting that the ambiguity isn't unique to English (something which I could have thought of for myself, since I know just about enough French to know it exists there). Personally I think we often like to have that ambiguity, because it can leave a little "wiggle room" in delicate social interactions. Apr 15, 2012 at 21:22
  • That there's been fly-by down voters around is no secret and neither are they after you alone.
    – Kris
    Apr 16, 2012 at 1:38
  • @Kris: Hmm. I've only really noticed it in the last couple of weeks. It's not normally enough to topple a good answer unless there aren't many upvotes anyway - which, as in this case, is because it's not apparently a fascinating question. Apr 16, 2012 at 2:05
  • You may want to emphasize te fact that its called incl/excl OUR or clusivity. That was my main question; the answer is sort of hidden in yours :/ Apr 16, 2012 at 2:40

There's nothing new to this. It's always been known, as the exclusive vs. inclusive FPP.

It's not unique to English.

And, yes, separate words exist in many languages.

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