As in "we are going out tonight" using a different word for "we" depending on whether you mean "me and some other people" or "you and me (and potentially other people as well)".

  • Say Alice is talking to Bob and Carol. Alice, Carol, and Eve will be going out tonight (Girls' Night Out), while all three of them as well as Bob, Dave, and Frank will be going out together later in the week. Is there any language that makes a distinction between a "semi-inclusive" (the former) and "fully-inclusive" (the latter)? – Monty Harder Sep 24 '15 at 19:15
  • Most Austronesian languages distinguish first person plural inclusive and exclusive, and many other things as well. In Acehnese (a Sumatran language), age relative to speaker is more important. The Acehnese pronoun system is in the chart on the second page of this paper. – jlawler Sep 24 '15 at 23:38

Yes, this feature is called clusivity, there are dozens of languages that have it, for example Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese, Malay, Hawaiian, etc. This article has a list of such languages together with their inclusive and exclusive forms of "we": Clusivity (Wikipedia).

| improve this answer | |
  • And contra WP, it's normal among almost all Australian languages, especially those of the Pama-Nyungan family. Additionally, many of those also have this distinction in the first person dual, e.g. ngali 'we two.INCL' vs ngaliju 'we two.EXCL'. – Gaston Ümlaut Sep 24 '15 at 2:51

Malayalam (no relation to Malay), a language spoken in the southern state of Kerala in India has this feature. You use "njangal" to exclude the person spoken to and "nammal" to include that person.

| improve this answer | |

This is called clusivity, and although not found in European languages (AFAIK), it is found in South Asia and Australasia at least.

An example of how this is used (as taken from Fantastic Features We Don't Have In The English Language (YouTube)):

We've just won the lottery!

In English this is unclear - is the listener included? If English had an exclusive/inclusive 'we', then it would be clear if the listener was also one of the winner.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    I would've commented this instead of doing an answer - but I just made the account now, and thus don't have the ability to comment -_- – Dangercrow Sep 23 '15 at 23:42
  • 4
    It's an answer so posting it as an answer was the right thing to do. – David Richerby Sep 24 '15 at 20:29
  • 1
    Somewhat surprisingly for a Slavic language, Russian 1st person plural мы is by default exclusive - if you want inclusive, you'd use "мы с тобой" (for dual), "мы с вами" (for plural or polite dual). I'd hesitate to call these "pronouns", though. – Radovan Garabík Sep 27 '15 at 13:00
  • 1
    It can be found in European languages, see Old English, Old Icelandic, and modern dialects that uses weu'ns and you'ns. – Quidam May 2 '17 at 11:09
  • Also: Gujarati (આપણે /અમે), Marathi (आपण /आम्ही ), Marwari, and Punjabi (ਆਪਾਂ /ਅਸੀਂ ) – Quidam May 3 '17 at 9:13

I haven't got enough reputation to comment, but I must add this link because WALS is such an amazing tool for these type of questions:

Inclusive/Exclusive Distinction in Independent Pronouns

This will show the answer to your question on a map. Explore other features by clicking Features in the menu.

| improve this answer | |

In Vietnamese there are 2 types of "we":

  • inclusive we: "chúng ta", to address the speaker, the person spoken to, and maybe others if any

  • exclusive we: "chúng tôi", to address the speaker and others, excluding the person spoken to.

This was asked here: Is there a language which distinguishes between three types of "we"? (1) speaker and person spoken to (2) speaker and others, excluding person spoken to (3) speaker and others, including person spoken to?

| improve this answer | |

Norwegian Sign Language distinguishes between inclusive and exclusive "we". Apart from that it distinguishes between dual and plural, so there are different signs for:

I don't know about other sign languages, but I wouldn't be surprised if this kind of distinction was common among them.

| improve this answer | |

Tamil also has this feature.

Nāṅkaḷ kāṭṭil-ukku pōkiṟōm

We, (not including the person being adressed) are going to the forest.

Namma kāṭṭil-ukku pōkiṟōm

We, (including the person being adressed) are going to the forest.

| improve this answer | |

An example from Tagalog:

Pupunta kami sa Disneyland! (We're going to Disneyland, but not you!)

Pupunta tayo sa Disneyland! (We're going to Disneyland, including you!)

| improve this answer | |
  • I'm not in a place where I can check, but didn't Old English have 'wit' and 'unc'? – David Garner Apr 5 '16 at 19:36
  • The first example can cause great distress in many a child :) – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Jun 4 '16 at 20:47

In the dialect spoken in southern Pennsylvania, Indiana and northern Kentucky, speakers will use "weuns" to indicate inclusion in first person, and "you-uns" for second person.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.