How do people cope with the horrors happening around the world if you're constantly thinking about it?

Is it ok? To use people or any other group and then using you, which is a pronoun you can use to refer to people in general?

  • 2
    The OP's sentence seems just wrong, at least in British English, and therefore the question makes no sense. IMO it should be "How do people cope ... if they are constantly thinking about it?" or alternatively "How do you cope .... if you're constantly thinking about it?".
    – alephzero
    Sep 13, 2021 at 15:14

2 Answers 2


You should be consistent within a phrase or sentence, if you are referring to the same group. Either:

How do people cope with .... if they're constantly...
How do you [people] cope with .... if you're constantly....

(The word people is optional as an appositive in the second example.)

  • 6
    Please don't use the word "people" in the second example. There is a very strong difference between the indefinite "you" and "you people".
    – Stef
    Sep 13, 2021 at 10:03
  • Agreed with @Stef. Also I'd add that mixing the two (using "people" and then "you") is probably the sort of mistake that native speakers might make all the time in informal speech and that nobody would notice, but in a pre-prepared speech or in a written document it would definitely look wrong.
    – Muzer
    Sep 13, 2021 at 13:03
  • I'm with @Stef - "you people" is actually any category -ism you can think of. You.. elves, you hobbits… you people. [pick any class of hominid that doesn't include yourself… & insult it] Sep 14, 2021 at 16:08
  • You people are making trenchant comments. I'm tempted to agree. Sep 15, 2021 at 5:54

The general requirement is that a pronoun must agree in plurality (singular versus plural) and perspective (first/second/third person) with the noun it’s substituting for.

‘you’ is a bit of a special case though, as English doesn’t really have second-person nouns in most cases. A noun in English is only ever second person if it directly identifies who or what you are speaking to and is being used in a vocative¹ sense.

In your particular example, ‘people’ isn’t really being used in a vocative sense (I can’t clearly explain why other than ‘We just don’t use vocative forms in that way.’), which in turn means it has to be third-person, and thus cannot be paired with ‘you’. If you really want a pronoun in the second clause, it thus must be ‘they’. If you really want to use ‘you’ in the second clause, ‘people’ must also be replaced with ‘you’².

¹ ‘Vocative’ in this sense meaning equivalent to the vocative case found in some other languages (such as Latin or Greek), which is used to address someone being spoken to. English actually used to have a vocative case formed by prefixing a name with an ‘O’ (you can still see this usage in some old texts and some older Christian hymns), but that has largely fallen out of use outside of prose that‘s trying to sound old (and even there, it’s usually corrupted to ‘Oh’ instead of the original ‘O’).

² While some people might try to change it instead to ‘you people’, this is highly inadvisable, as it results in a rather derogatory sounding statement in most dialects of modern English (the same actually applies, albeit to a lesser extent, to almost any other noun in the same place).

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .