Before, I asked what the phrases were used when you were in a bathroom and heard the door knocked (https://english.stackexchange.com/q/471452/321003), and I received a lot of example answers. Among them was “Someone’s in here.” And this is beginning to bother me. As a Japanese learner, I think I tend to say “I’m in here!” for “Someone’s in her!” Why is it “someone,” not “I?” I’m wondering about that.

  • Partly because it doesn't really matter what you say or who you are when you say it (I have a friend who says "Come on in!"), partly because it's a bit awkward to use a pronoun when the person knocking doesn't know who the "I" would refer to. Mostly it's just what everyone says and no one thinks to much about it. – pip install frisbee Jul 8 '19 at 14:45
  • What do the Japanese themselves say in this situation? I can't quite recall. – Andrew Jul 8 '19 at 16:25
  • Despite the fact that the someone in there is you, it's still true that you are someone. In answer to "How many people are in there?" both "only me" and "just one person" are legitimate replies. – Jason Bassford Jul 8 '19 at 20:46

Saying "someone's in here" instead of "I'm in here" adds a degree of anonymity. You don't know who is knocking, and they don't know who is inside. The identities of the parties in the "conversation" have not been and will not be established. Therefore, although "I'm in here" is perfectly grammatical, it feels wrong because the knocker doesn't know who "I" refers to.

Every language has particular ways of saying certain things, which do not arise from specific grammatical or semantic rules, but from habit. Some things are just usually said in a certain way, and people get used to that way. It becomes the norm, even when other ways of saying it would also technically be correct.

  • +1 it's the same as "It's occupied!" For whatever reason, we like to keep our bathroom activities impersonal, so the most polite expressions are, by nature, anonymous. – Andrew Jul 8 '19 at 16:26

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