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Are there any languages that distinguish between different forms of the first-person plural pronoun?

I don't know exactly how to phrase this question, but I'm curious whether any languages make a distinction in their first person plural pronoun, between a "second-person-included" case, and a "second-person-excluded" case.

Let me explain with English to clear up what I'm asking. In English (as well as every other language I have studied), we use "we" (or an equivalent depending on the language, "nous, wir, wij, vi, نحن, 我们", etc. ) for both of the following cases:

Case 1: The speaker refers to hxxself as part of a group of one or more people, which INCLUDES the listener(s)/reader(s). Ex, "You and I did X".

Case 2: The speaker refers to hxxself as part of a group of one or more people, which EXCLUDES the listener(s)/reader(s). Ex, "Someone else and I did X".

Does anyone speak, or know of a language where this distinction is made?

March 13, 2017


Sorted by top post


Inclusive "we" includes the person addressed and exclusive "we" excludes the person addressed. Almost none of the European languages makes the distinction, but there are several world languages that do. See the Wikipedia article on clusivity. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clusivity

March 13, 2017


Thank you! This is the exact linguistic definition I was looking for but didn't have the terminology to find.

March 13, 2017


Guaraní has an inclusive (ñande) and an exclusive (ore) first person plural. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guarani_language#Pronouns

Guaraní is also available on Duoling from Spanish, but because it is in beta, there are still many kinks to be worked out. Translations with either ñande or ore missing is one of those kinks.

March 13, 2017


In Mandarin, for example, you have "wǒmen" and "zámen"; the former generally excludes the listener, the latter includes him or her.

March 13, 2017


That's interesting, but I think in modern Mandarin "wo-men" is used for both inclusive and exclusive we, and "za-men" is a bit archaic except in certain regions.

March 13, 2017


It's still used, but not super frequently. People default to wǒmen most of the time unless they want to emphasize the inclusion of the listener, in which case they still use zánmen.

March 13, 2017


There are other ways the first person pronoun can vary. A good example is Slovene: the pronoun varies between genders and between dual and plural:

masculine dual: midva
non-masculine dual: medve/midve
masculine plural: mi
non-masculine plural: me

All those words mean "we".

And so you don't think the dual is just plural with number "two" (dva/dve in Slovene) fused together: the declension patterns for dual and plural are totally different. Gender matters only in nominative though.


March 13, 2017


I assume you meant masculine and non-masculine plural in the second set of examples. That's quite interesting though! Arabic also has a dual form, and conjugates verbs based on it as well. Interestingly, however, Arabic doesn't have a dual or distinguish between genders in the 1st person; only between singular and plural. To go back to Slovene, the forms "midva", and "medve/midve" are formed from fusing the plural to the number "two" though, correct? You just meant that they also need to be conjugated based on the form?

March 13, 2017


>I assume you meant masculine and non-masculine plural in the second set of examples.

Yeah, that's copy-paste for you.

Conjugation is what verbs do, pronouns have declension. And forms for the dual pronouns are totally different than what you would get by taking plural pronouns and "two", except for the nominative. There's a declension chart under the link I posted.

March 13, 2017


I'm surprised no one has said Indonesian yet. It has kita, which includes the listener, and kami, which excludes them. I would guess that a lot of other Austronesian languages do the same.

Why do you ask?

March 13, 2017


Hi there! Cherokee DEFINITELY has those distinctions, like, exactly. There is a "you and I" there is a "he, she, or it and I" as well as a "they and I" and then a "all of us". Language books call it the "dual inclusive, dual exclusive, plural inclusive, and plural exclusive" pronouns. These pronouns are bound prefixes and change depending on the verb, as with a lot of Native American polysynthetic languages.

Hope that gives you something to look into, it's interesting!


March 23, 2017
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