16

This has actually happened with me. I was confused and could not answer to my friend. The context was the traffic sense in India, which is worst! :)

In that context, I was describing to my friend that in India, there is only one rule that there is no rule. There is no need to obey traffic rules, signals and the list goes on. But, here is how I got confused. I'm an Indian but I do follow traffic rules. Now what should be the sentence?

*Indians are the worst drivers..........blah blah blah..... and you know what, we can take turn from anywhere. Let it be from the middle of the road or highway."*

Or

*Indians are the worst drivers..........blah blah blah..... and you know what, they can take turn from anywhere. Let it be from the middle of the road or highway."*

I used we because I'm talking about Indians that includes me and I used they because I'm talking about Indians but here, I'm not included! :)

The second sentence with they seems proper if two non-Indians are talking about Indians. Being an Indian, if I speak that, it looks somewhat off to me.

How does a native speaker say this?

  • 7
    Politicians also use we without including themselves. We're all in this together! when motivating budget cuts "across the board"... ;-) – gerrit Sep 17 '14 at 15:05
19

Since you're speaking in generalities, you can use the first person plural pronoun, even if you regard yourself as one of the exceptions (it's assumed that generalities can have exceptions). For example, I might say:

Us men, we never remember our anniversaries.

even if I happen to be a man who always remembers to make a reservation for our anniversary dinner well ahead of time.

I'm talking about men in general, and if I happen to be a man, that's the best way to say it – I should include myself in the first group, since I'm clearly a member of that group.

I suppose I could say:

Those men, they can never remember their anniversaries.

but that seems more fitting for a women to say, not a man. If a man says it that way, he's muddling the conversation, by creating three groups instead of two.

Since these kind of remarks are often intended to be somewhat humorous, we dampen the humor when we get so particular about the pronouns. It's better to be a little self-deprecating and include ourselves with the group, even if we don't exhibit the behavior.

When your friend says:

Indians are the worst drivers, we can take a turn from anywhere!

that's more likely to make me smile or laugh, whle:

Indians are the worst drivers, they can take a turn from anywhere!

sounds more like a peeve or a rant against others in a group that person belongs to, and some of the humor is lost.

7

Interesting question! Both make sense, but I'd lean towards using "we" here.

By saying "Indians are the worst drivers", you're treating two separate groups as one: Indians and bad drivers. Your choice of pronoun then serves to try to split those groups out again: if you use "we", you're putting more emphasis on the fact that you are in the first group; if you use "they", you're emphasising that you're not in the second group.

The reason I'd use "we" here is twofold: first, no-one boasts about being a bad driver, so it's already clear from context that you don't think of yourself as being in the second group. Secondly, national identity is generally something that doesn't change (or changes very rarely, at least), while driving skill varies considerably more, so it makes sense to emphasise the group that you're more firmly associated with.

5

It is very simple, if you are part of the group you talk about, using they is possible, but it will still include you as a speaker. You just talk about yourself in he third person!

Users who base their SE username on their real names are strange people. They talk about themselves in the third person sometimes.

I am one of those people, and I am part of the group "Users who base their SE username on their real names" as well as the they in the second sentence.

You can not talk about Indians and exclude yourself implicitly. If you want to make statements about a group of people, be specific about the group.

If all Indians are idiots in traffic (I can see where someone gets that idea ;) ), except for you, the only sane driver on the complete subcontinent, then talk you can say:

Indians, except me, the world greatest and most courteous driver, are the worst drivers in the world. They....

It is fairly common though, when making generalizing statements about a group of people, to implicitly include yourself, even if it does not apply to you (or you think so), if only because it adds a bit of self-deprecation to the statement, that otherwise is likely seen as an insult. Generalizing remarks are often not appreciated.

Now, I am Dutch. If I say that Indians are complete idiots, many Indians will probably feel I insulted them with such a terribly generalizing remark: all Indians are different, and some may be idiots, but hey, that doesn't mean they all are! Also non-Indians may take offence at it.

If I say that the Dutch are idiots, the generalization is more likely to be acceptable to most people, as I am making the statement implicitly about myself as well (it is generally more safe to call yourself an idiot than your neighbour!)

Also, making the remark about yourself ads a bit of nuance. It is more likely you mean your remark as a hyperbole, not literally meaning that the remark applies to all individuals in the group.

If you explicitly exclude yourself, you cannot defend the hyperbole anymore (you are being very specific): Indian drivers (except Maulik) drive like idiots seems to be very specifically really about all of them (except one). If there would be any other exceptions, I would have added them as I added Maulik.

  • Nicely answered. +1 for the infotainment! :) – Maulik V Sep 17 '14 at 9:48
2

If you say "they", you risk confusing the person you're talking to and they might spend time thinking, "Wait, I thought Maulik was Indian. But he just called Indians 'they'. Maybe he's Sri Lankan? Pakistani? And is he being racist? Er, sorry, what did you say again, I lost track." Saying "we" avoids all of this by sounding self-deprecating rather than potentially racist and avoiding confusion about your own nationality.

If you wanted to make it clear that you're not the sort of driver who has all these bad habits, you could say something like "Bad Indian drivers are the worst bad drivers. They [do really bad things]."

  • This is interesting! +1 :) – Maulik V Sep 18 '14 at 12:57
1

One correct phrasing:

"Indians are the worst drivers..........blah blah blah..... and you know what, we'll make turns from anywhere. We'll even make a turn from the middle of the road or highway."

I'll point out a distinction between taking a turn and making a turn. If you take a turn, then it's like you are taking one of a set of options given to you...such as at an intersection. That's not the case you are mentioning here; it is not official, you are "making up your own traffic rules". So it would be likely said as make a turn.

(You can say "make a turn" where you would say "take a turn", but they are not necessarily interchangeable if you are speaking about a maneuver that you have invented like this.)

The meaning of can suggests the ability to do something, that is not necessarily done often.

"You can write on the desk if you want. You bought it at Ikea so it is yours to do with as you please!"

If you are talking about a tendency of something that isn't technically allowed but performed anyway, then will is the word you are looking or.

"Those kids are vandals, they will write on the school's desks when you are not looking."

You need the "a" with singular "turn". So make a turn at the next intersection or take a turn at the next intersection are correct phrasings. You do not use the "a" with plural "turns".

I used the contraction we'll instead of we will because it is more natural sounding.

It's a stylistic choice whether to refer to Indians as we or they. You can do either, depending on how much distance you want to put between you and the group you are a member of. If you are the kind of Indian who does not make abrupt turns from the middle of the highway, you might want to say "they". If you're a bad driver yourself then "we" is a way of including yourself in the group.

(And as suggested in another answer, putting the "we" in makes it sound more that you are in on the joke and having some humor about it. If I were to say "Those Indians, they are the worst drivers!" it might seem to carry racist overtones. Rightly or wrongly, we are given more benefit-of-the-doubt when we express criticism of groups in which we are ourselves members.)

  • You got driven by the rules again! We take turn for sure. An official turn from anywhere! That's a pity we do that all time! Just kidding. – Maulik V Sep 17 '14 at 9:45
1

Well, you're saying "can", not "do". So you, just like everyone else, "can" do this, but you don't necessarily take advantage of it.

"... we can take a turn from anywhere [not that I do]..."

0

My two cents:

How about: * Most Indians are bad drivers..........blah blah blah..... and you know what, they can take turn from anywhere. Let it be from the middle of the road or highway."*

I like the point made about using "we" to avoid sounding proud/racist. Using "we" makes it humorous and more acceptable.

However, adding a "most" would prevent the statement from sounding self-deprecating.

  • 2
    You should explain why you think this is more appropriate than the alternative. Simply voting for one option doesn't help the asker decide between "we" and "they" in the future. – ColleenV Sep 17 '14 at 14:08

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