Context: Martha, an eighth grade student and the protagonist of Marta Salinas' story 'The Scholarship Jacket', asks her grandpa for fifteen dollars to pay for the scholarship jacket.

The grandpa asks Martha, 'what does a scholarship jacket mean?'

Martha replies, 'It means you've earned it by having the highest grades for eight years and that's why they're giving it to you'.

Questions: Why did Martha use the Second Person pronouns instead of the First Person ones in her reply?

Is there any technical term (rhetorical device) for this kind of usage?

2 Answers 2


It is actually the second person for a third person sense. The Generic You

The second person "you" can be used in place of the third person, singular, impersonal pronoun "one", to refer to a singular, imagined person. In this case it refers to "a person wearing a scholarship jacket"

You could paraphrase:

'what does a scholarship jacket mean?'

It means the person wearing it has earned it by having the highest grades for eight years and that's why they're giving it to that person'.

She is using this pronoun because it has the same meaning to anybody wearing the jacket, not just for her. She could have used "I", but that might suggest that the jacket could have a different meaning for other people:

What does the jacket mean?

You get it if you have done well at school. I got mine when I became captain of the netball team.


This is an instance of generic you, which, I'd like to add, occurs in any number of languages.

In English grammar and in particular in casual English, generic, impersonal, or indefinite you is the use of the pronoun you to refer to an unspecified person, as opposed to its standard use as the second-person pronoun. Generic you can often be used in the place of one, the third-person singular impersonal pronoun, in colloquial speech.

For instance, someone is talking about a book store you visited

When you are inside, you can't see a thing. It is dark!

Here, the speaker is not talking about a specific case where the listener is in the book store. It is a generic pronoun referring to anybody.


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