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First Person Plural-Singular

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First Person Plural-Singular

Postby scw1217 » Mon Oct 31, 2005 5:08 pm

I have a passage of writing that I am unsure how to proceed with. You helped me greatly before, so here goes. The quote is as follows:

When we understand the words of triumph, we no longer ask, "Can we succed?" Instead, we ask, "How do we conquer and prevail? What is the key to victory?"

Now, I think it should say, "...we no longer ask, 'Can I succeed?.....How do I conquer and prevail?" But, does this switch it from first person plural to singular? Any advice is appreciated.
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Re: First Person Plural-Singular

Postby tcward » Mon Oct 31, 2005 6:50 pm

scw1217 wrote:When we understand the words of triumph, we no longer ask, "Can we succed?" Instead, we ask, "How do we conquer and prevail? What is the key to victory?"

Now, I think it should say, "...we no longer ask, 'Can I succeed?.....How do I conquer and prevail?" But, does this switch it from first person plural to singular? Any advice is appreciated.


To answer your question, yes, it changes from first person plural to singular. Does that bother me as the reader? Not too much. Not in just this small passage.

However...

This paragraph is taken out of context, and I don't know what that first sentence fragment is referring to -- When we understand the words of triumph...

In a larger context, in other words, that example may bother me more if you switch from plural to singular mid-stream like that.

-Tim
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Postby Stargzer » Tue Nov 01, 2005 12:15 am

What Tim said. The overall context of the entire article/work/paper is important here. In the latter case, you seem to want to use the "Editorial We" to introduce a thought by a single person.

Try recasting it into all singular and see if it changes the meaning of the rest of the work:

When one understands the words of triumph, one no longer asks, "Can I succeed?" Instead, one asks, "How do I conquer and prevail? What is the key to victory?"


Using that impersonal "one" construction does tend to sound formal and stuffy, but it's the only way I know of to avoid the Editorial We. Which, come to think of it, is why it is a formal style. :)
Regards//Larry

"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them."
-- Attributed to Richard Henry Lee
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Postby scw1217 » Tue Nov 01, 2005 9:27 am

Thanks for the advice. As to the use of "we", I perhaps cannot properly explain why that was used. I like the way "one" reads, and agree with you there, but in the context of this article it would not work. However, neither does the writer want to use "I" exclusively as that does not include the reader. "I did this...I did that." In cases where the behavior of the reader is what needs to be changed to affect success in their life, using "we" works best to make him/her realize that success is not exclusive tot he author of the article, but includes them, the reader. Sorry, if I cannot give a better explanation than that. In any case, I do like the use of "I" specific to the sentences I have quoted, but was not sure if grammatically I could use it.
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Postby Alan M. » Tue Nov 01, 2005 6:54 pm

I'm wonder if, rather than using "we" or "one," you could use "you" and take it directly to the reader?
When you understand the words of triumph, you no longer ask, "Can I succed?" Instead, you ask, "How do I conquer and prevail? What is the key to victory?"

Based on what you've given, it seems like that could work.
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Postby tcward » Tue Nov 01, 2005 7:04 pm

I agree with Alan. That would be a powerful way of turning it.

-Tim
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Postby Stargzer » Tue Nov 01, 2005 8:53 pm

That's another good style for personal communication, but again it will depend on the overall style and context of the total work. Changing to second person might necessitate rewriting a good chunk of the entire work into second person, too.

(I knew that guy had potential! :wink: )
Regards//Larry

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Postby scw1217 » Mon Nov 07, 2005 11:25 am

Stargzer wrote:That's another good style for personal communication, but again it will depend on the overall style and context of the total work. Changing to second person might necessitate rewriting a good chunk of the entire work into second person, too.


This being the thing we most want to avoid.

Here is another example of this problem in the text:

"Today, God has wonderful plans for all His children. Through His Word, we envision abundant blessings and a glorious future....But, here is a thought provoking question. When can we expect God's goodness? If I am sick, I don't want to continue in pain until tomorrow...I covet God's abundant supply now, before my bills are due. What can we expect from our God today?"

Here, you again see the switch from "we" to "I". If the author strictly says, "I" does that sound too impersonal and exclude the reader? Can we go from plural to singular in this manner?
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