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When talking to someone, can I use their name in place of "you"? Is this only used when talking a certain way (e.g. to children)? Or is this not done in English at all?

Example:

Ann is talking to Bob.
Ann says "I cooked lasagna today"
Bob replies: "I really want to try your cooking!"
Ann says: "I never knew Bob liked lasagna"

If it makes a difference, please consider both the case where other people are also part of the conversation, and the case where Ann and Bob are talking alone.

  • In the last quoted sentence, "Bob" is not used in place of "you". The full sentence goes like this: "I never knew that Bob liked lasagna". The name Bob is used in the third person. So Ann is not directly addressing Bob by this sentence, but gives a kind of exclamation in which Bob is mentioned. – CowperKettle Jan 10 at 8:53
  • @CowperKettle Couldn't you also say "I never knew that you liked lasagna"? Either way you're replacing a pronoun. – KWeiss Jan 14 at 15:31
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If you use someone’s name instead of “you”, it doesn’t sound like you’re addressing them.

If for any reason you wanted or needed to use a person’s name (since “you” is ambiguous sometimes), you would use a noun of direct address. For example:

  • Bob, I never knew you liked lasagna.
  • I never knew you liked lasagna, Bob.
  • Hey, Ann and Bob, the food is ready.
  • Ann, take this seat and, Bob, you take that seat.

It’s a bit complicated to explain all the rules to where in the sentence it can go, but at either the beginning or the end is always safe.

It’s especially helpful to use this to prevent confusion when there’s a group of people but it’s also used when you’re alone with someone and there’s no chance of confusion about who you’re addressing. Additionally, you can do this with any sentence you’re addressing to a person, not just ones with pronouns.

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If Ann and Bob are alone, Ann cannot use Bob's name in place of 'you' in the sentence.

If Ann and Bob are with other people, Ann can use Bob's name in place of 'you', but this makes it clear that Ann is talking about Bob to the other people present, and not to Bob. Bob would really be replacing 'he' not 'you'. Depending on the situation, Bob might be offended by this.

Ann could use Bob's name at other points in the sentence. At the beginning of the sentence, it is usually emphatic: you would do this to get somebody's attention or to express surprise. in this case, it would be to express surprise.

Bob! I never knew you liked lasagna!

At the end of the sentence, it is a courtesy- possibly demonstrating that you remembered the other person's name

I never knew you liked lasagna, Bob.

In mid-sentence, it can be used for various reasons- for example for emphasis or for comic effect.

I never knew you, Bob, liked lasagna.

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