I was wondering whether there might be difference between animate subjects and inanimate.

The native speakers are more using inanimate like "this road will lead you to the place" instead of saying "if you choose this road, you can go there."

For another example, there're two sentences.

  1. If you study harder, you can get a high score.
  2. Studying harder allows you to get a high score.

I think they almost sound like the same to me. However, I slightly feel, when it comes to inanimate subjects, it is more formal. What are your thoughts on that?

  • When I saw inanimate subject, it may me think of a person who had fainted.
    – Lambie
    May 13 at 22:42

1 Answer 1


Politeness, which relates to speech that is considered professional or formal.

Calling out someone directly outside of a familar/family setting is impolite. Therefore:

  • sentences with subjects that aren't a person are more polite.

"Formal speech" is another way of saying "very polite speech."

You is sometimes used in a way to mean "anyone" but there's always the possibility it could be misunderstood, so other schemes are often better, such as:

  • using the pronoun one - If one studies harder, one can get a high score.

  • using plural pronouns + that X as a subject - Those that study harder get higher scores.

  • passive voice - A high score is obtained by those that study harder.

  • 1
    formal speech is not necessarily very polite. A politician can make a speech and be very polite.
    – Lambie
    May 13 at 22:42
  • Dear Mr.LawrenceC. Thank you for answering my question. So you would use inanimate subjects in order not to say something directly, right? And I used to think you can let the long sentence, more than 2 clauses, be just one and it is much easier to get it 'cause the sentence structure is more simple. So is my thought wrong?
    – Taimu Sato
    May 13 at 23:59
  • It's a bit of an exaggeration to say that addressing someone directly is 'impolite'. Written instructions or advice often address the reader as 'you' in order to sound more friendly and natural. May 14 at 11:36
  • It doesn't matter now. What I am asking you is just what the meaning of using inanimate subjects is!
    – Taimu Sato
    May 14 at 12:53

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