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A presenter on TV advises people who struggle to pay their energy bills, and he says:

"Please don't clog up their phone lines because they only have limited resources. That's for those of you who are really struggling with your energy bills right now, which is too many. ITV-this morning" (see: 9:14-9:22)

The part of the sentence "...struggling with YOUR energy bills..." caught my attention.

As far as I understand, there is a phone line and the phone line is for the people who are struggling to pay THEIR bills. So, why does he say "...those of you who are struggling with YOUR bills..."? It is THEIR OWN bills that people struggle with, isn't it?

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  • Here he is addressing those who are having trouble paying bills: "That is for those of you who are really struggling with your energy bills right now". In the previous sentence he had not made clear who he was addressing with "Please don't..."
    – TimR
    Commented Mar 4 at 22:08

2 Answers 2

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To be clear what the issue is: He's already used "you" ("those of you"). That means that he's, first, speaking to a plural "you" who are "all of his viewers watching right now." He then identifies a subgroup: "those." That is, "those ones of you."

In this situation, he could choose either second or third person, based on who he wants to be "speaking to." For a simpler example, imagine a general addresses their army: "Some of you are traitors. [You/they] have been giving secrets to the enemy." Not all of the soldiers are traitors. The general is speaking about a sub-group. If she chooses "you," then she is focusing her words to the soldiers who know they've been giving secrets, making them feel on the spot. If she chooses "they," she's speaking to the loyal soldiers, making them feel their distinction from the traitors.

So the TV man could speak to the portion of his viewers who are struggling, or to the portion that isn't.

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  • True, but in this context, he's addressing those who are struggling with their energy bills, not the general audience. So it should be "your". If he said, "Some of you are struggling ... Those people are ..." it would be appropriate to say "their".
    – Jay
    Commented Mar 5 at 1:49
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He's addressing the people who are struggling with their energy bills. So it is correct to say "your". "You ... your".

If he was talking to some other group about people struggling with energy bills, he might say, "There are people struggling with their bills." In that case he is addressing a general audience, but talking about this specific group.

But here he is addressing the people who are struggling, so it is "your bills". If he said, "For those of you struggling to pay their bills ...", that would mean that the people he is addressing are paying some third party's bills. That is very unlikely to be the intended meaning. I suppose you might say, for example, "The government is paying for cell phones for illegal immigrants. You tax payers are struggling to pay their phone bills ..." That is, "you" are paying someone else's bill. But that's not the meaning here. "You" are paying your own bills. Or struggling to pay them, anyway.

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  • I'm too lazy to listen to the full context enough to be sure of his meaning, and it's off-the-cuff speech anyway, but my perception is that he's asking those who aren't struggling to leave the phone lines clear for those who are. Commented Mar 5 at 1:56

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