For example, I want to ask how to use a device, not about its general usage, but for the listener's case specifically.

If I say "How do you use the device?", the listener would explain the general usage of that device. If I want to ask how the listener personally uses the device, how should I phrase the sentence?

  • In software or systems engineering you could ask, "What is the use case?" but that is specialized jargon that you should only use with people who work in those fields. Feb 23 at 14:02
  • 2
    I would just emphasize "you"
    – user253751
    Feb 23 at 21:49

1 Answer 1


Several options. The ambiguity arises because "you" is used to mean a general person, in place of "one", in modern English.

  1. Do nothing and hope that context makes it clear.
  2. Emphasise the word "you": "How do you use ...".
  3. Use the past or the perfect. This is possible since it asks about past actions, not general ones "How have you been using the device?"
  4. Rephrase, for example "Tell me about your use of the device?" - there are many possibilities.
  5. Be explicit. "How do you, personally, use the device?"
  • 5
    5b. "How do you, Fred, use the device?", "How do you, as a [job role], use the device?" - both ways of making the question more personal
    – Chris H
    Feb 23 at 15:33
  • Another version of 5: compliment how the other person does it. "How do you [do something]? I like the way you [do a specific thing with it].", "How do you [do something]? I've never been able to make it go that fast/well/etc." Feb 23 at 18:36
  • 1
    How do you use your device? Feb 24 at 1:00

You must log in to answer this question.

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