46. How to Avoid ‘I’, ‘We’ and ‘You’ Essay


“I”, “we” and “you” are often unsuitable in formal writing, but are hard to avoid if a passive verb isn't possible


The terms we, we andyou (and comparable forms just like me, my, mine, myself, united states, our, your, and yours) are generally said to be unsuitable in formal writing. Indeed, the absence of these words, along side various others, is often part of the very definition of this type of writing (see 166. Appropriacy in Professional English).

The observed have to avoid words like we, we andyou in scholastic and professional writing additionally suggests something important by what this writing isn't. Academic and expert authors usually do not try to make use of impressive wording for its own benefit; they only turn to it to avoid an undesirable alternative. The over-riding aim, as in various types of writing, is to compose as plainly and simply possible.

The deeper reason that is usually provided for avoiding I, we or you in formal English is a should appear impersonal, objective and practical. These words are felt to conflict with that simply because they make unneeded recommendations to particular people. They have been suitable only once they mean particular forms of I, we or perhaps you, including the composer of a CV or the addressee of an advice leaflet (see 187. Advising and Recommending).

To avoid We, we therefore, it is important to know exactly what substitute language can change them. This is actually the exact same form of problem as that presented by paraphrasing (see 80. How to Paraphrase). Both in situations the answer will often be obvious, but often is going to be hard to see. In this post I wish to focus on the difficulty that replacing I, we and you may provide when they're the topic of a sentence. For a few suggestions about just how to change them in other phrase positions, see 39. “Decide” or “Make a choice?”.

For details of other terms to avoid in formal writing, begin to see the Learning Materials page with this blog underneath the going terms to prevent in Academic Writing, or click “Formal Style” in the CATEGORIES menu on right of the web page. For a test that may assist learning needs to be identified, see 193. A Test of Formal Language Use.



Many coursebooks focus on one good way to avoid casual subjectpronouns like I, we andyou: using passive verbs. Yet in a surprisingly large numbers of cases a passive verb cannot replace a friendly subject pronoun. The following sentences (except the first) illustrate a range of circumstances where avoiding we with a passive verb just isn't possible. One other – in CV-writing – is illustrated in 93. Negative and positive Listings.

(a) i shall describe three primary categories.

(b) I was affected in three other ways.

(c) we proceeded (a little later).

(d) I became an organization user.

(age) i would like first to supply some history.

(f) I enjoyed sampling the merchandise.

(g) I know that the problem is maybe not resolved.

(h) we argue that reading helps grammar learning.

Only in sentence (a) may I be prevented by way of a standard verb change from active to passive (Three main groups would be described). The reason is that only sentence (a) contains an energetic verb (will describe) with an object (categories − for details of things, see 8. Object-Dropping mistakes). Keep in mind that also right here a passive is not compulsory to avoid the unwanted we: in the place of will likely be described you could have a new verb inside active voice, such as for instance follow (see 27. steer clear of Passive Verbs) or you will find (see 161. Unique Uses of “There” Sentences).

In sentence (b), a change from active to passive isn't feasible as the verb with We has already been passive (was impacted). Within the others, although the verb with We is active, there is no object noun or pronoun. Sentence (c) has a dynamic verb with nothing at all after it, or just an adverb expression like a little later (see 113. Verbs That Cannot Be Passive). In sentence (d), there is a noun after the verb (group user), however it is a complement rather than an object (it describes the subject). Another sentences all have actually another verb after the one with we. In (age) this verb is in the infinitive type (to give you), in (f) it has -ing, whilst in (g) and (h) it makes a typical declaration next.



1. When the “I” Verb is Passive or Lacks an Object

In this situation – sentences (b) and (c) above – many of good use strategy appears to be to improve the verb into a related noun (see 131. Uses of “Action” Nouns, number 3). Listed below are sentences (b) and (c) following this modification (utilizing the appropriate nouns underlined):

(b1) Three various impacts were believed.

(c1) the task was done (some later).

Finding an associated noun (or a synonym of one) is not so very hard (see 14. Action Outcomes); a greater challenge is often finding the verb to go along with it, particularly since some appropriate verbs can be idiomatic lovers of the chosen noun (see 173. “Do Research” or “Make Research”?). For further samples of this way to avoid casual pronouns, see 39. “Decide” or “Make a Decision”?.

In the event that topic associated with the sentence does not have the (like in b1) there + BE is frequently another possibility (There were three…). To get more, see 161. Special Uses of “There” Sentences).


2. Once the Verb with ‘I’ has a Complement

A complement is a noun, pronoun or adjective that's shown by a verb to fit a youthful noun or pronoun (see 8. Object-Dropping Errors and 92. Complement-Showing “As”). As an example, in (d) above the complement friends user fits we – they are the same individual. Complements can often be recognised from the verbs they follow: BE, BE and some other people. Along with (d) above, these all contain a complement:

(i) we became uncomfortable.

(j) I felt proud.

(k) I was a supervisor.

These sentences may be paraphrased without I like this:

(d1) Group account ended up being adopted.

(i1) Discomfort had been felt/There was discomfort.

(j1) (a sense of) pride had been skilled.

(k1) A supervisory place happened.

Generalizing from these is difficult, however the main propensity seems to be to make the complement to the topic regarding the new phrase, instead once we do with objects. Adjective complements (uncomfortable, proud) become associated nouns (vexation, pride), whereas noun complements (a group user, a supervisor) frequently should be slightly changed (in these examples this is of “status” or “position” or “role” must be added).


3. As soon as the Verb with ‘I’ has another Verb Soon after

A very helpful avoidance strategy listed here is to begin with it and a type of BE. Compare the following utilizing the initial sentences above:

(e1) it's important first TO GIVE some back ground.

(f1) it absolutely was enjoyable SAMPLING/TO SAMPLE the product.

(g1) It is recognised your issue is not SOLVED.

(h1) it may be argued that reading HELPS sentence structure learning.

The next verb in such sentences (capitalised) often has to, sometimes -ing and sometimes that. For suggestions about selecting between them, see 103. Commenting with “It” on a Later Verb. Before to and -ing verbs – as in (e1) and (f1) – an adjective after it is/was usually seems easy and simple method of replacing we (necessary and enjoyable the original want and enjoyed).

Before that, however, a passive verb usually appears the best choice, though you can instead utilize a “truth” adjective like acceptable, certain, clear, (in)correct, definite, most likely, feasible, likely and (un)true. Placing a truth adjective after it is is particularly useful for agreeing or disagreeing without saying I (dis)agree (see 152. Agreeing and Disagreeing in Formal Contexts).

Making use of a passive verb after it to avoid we sometimes necessitates is, like in (g1), and quite often is, as in (h1). The deciding element seems to be the choice of verb: RECOGNISE can indicate “by me” with is, but ARGUE cannot – is argued means “by everyone”. Verbs like RECOGNISE should have would be to avoid I – *can be recognised in (g1) would sound strange – while verbs like ARGUE need could be.

You can determine if a verb is similar to RECOGNISE or ARGUE? A potential clue might be the fact RECOGNISE is a thought verb, ARGUE a speech one. Other thought verbs that, like RECOGNISE, can indicate “by me” with is include BELIEVE, CONSIDER, DEEM, ANTICIPATE, FEEL, HOLD, HOPE and UNDERSTAND. However, THINK seems unable to suggest “by me” – is thought constantly means “by everyone” (more over, are cannot replace is).

Other message verbs that, like ARGUE, need is to suggest “by me” consist of CONTEND, MAINTAIN, POINT OUT and SAY. Since this utilization of could be also suggests that a viewpoint as opposed to simple truth is being offered (see 107. The Language of viewpoints), one can always change the passive verb with is + an opinion-showing adjective, e.g.it is possible/arguablethat… .

Numerous sentences that allow it is also written with there + BE + NOUN (see 161. Special Uses of “There” Sentences, number 4). This is certainly true of sentences (e1), (f1) and (g1), which could correspondingly begin there's a need…, there clearly was enjoyment… andThere is recognition…. Note just how a need is recommended to absolutely essential. The negative you don't have to… can be typical.

Sentence (h1) may also start there is certainly an argument…, though possibly the meaning there can be changed from making the argument to merely reporting it.


How to cite this essay: