As possible also observed, when teaching, the address of ones position by 'we' is hardly found in the teaching of the Buddha and his disciples.

It seems that this often used way of using 'we' in argumentation, is purely a tool to demonstrate power and backhold, used also for winning anothers favor, in cases when 'we' includes the listener or could, if he takes on it.

In most cases it seems to be actually an often deliberated lie, as for how could one speak for another, possible even disregard those one might incl. in one 'we'.

So what do you think, is there any case, or in which case, can position 'we' be used skilfull, in which cases does it not point on ones attachments, greed, desires: unwise after gain and identification. In which case is it not clear to be seen as an outcome of sakkāyadiṭṭhi (on-group-holding/group-identification-view) of even gross outwardly sort?

Is it a word a non-worldling woul make use of, and if, in which circumstances?

Maybe one like also sacrifices samples found under the leading teachers of past and present, as addition to ones gift of sharing ones reflections here.

Would the use of 'we' be a good warn-signal, if tracing such in others speech?

`ironical' What do we think? What would we answer here?

[Note that this isn't given for exchange, stacks, and what ever world-binding similar trade but for escape from this wheel]

  • To clarify, straightforward usage of the term is when a speaker or writer is representing a concensaed group, or in the royal sense; otherwise, it's becoming more widespread recently as a debate method, & for marketing; variations include: asserting incorrect premises, or using known words/ phrases incorrectly & then invoking them/ using them to imply, as supporting information etc; & a somewhat indirect method of implying being part of a consensus is repeating a question prior to answering,or prefacing a reply or answer with repetition of the question, to imply legitimacy & connectedness
    – M H
    Aug 27, 2020 at 1:53

2 Answers 2


In MN8, the word "we" is used extensively to cover forty-four ethical considerations. Here is one such:

MN8:12.2: ‘Others will be cruel, but here we will not be cruel.’

Such ethical considerations would apply to all on the Noble Eightfold Path.

Others will ignore them. We will study them.

  • Who are you? It's not to assuse that good householder is part of first the Sangha and second that it is a repetition of what the master said to them. It would be very respectless if the Sangha, as "we" makes a declaration of their ways outside the given. To include one into the Sangha as a suggestion "we" could be also very demeritious. So maybe good to work out the point here, where it appears, better as it is a hot iron. You householders, if devoted followers, need to consider a lot neither lerned, used to, nor much willing to fundamental things, if wishing for good prosperty and refined joy Aug 27, 2020 at 12:38
  • It doesn't matter who I am. What matters is that people read the suttas and listen to the Dhamma.
    – OyaMist
    Aug 27, 2020 at 12:48
  • What a thoughless turn to justify ones mission instead of going after proper attention and even abound Sakkayaditthi in this way... Aug 27, 2020 at 12:52
  • > MN8:12.45: ‘Others will be attached to their own views, holding them tight, and refusing to let go, but here we will not be attached to our own views, not holding them tight, but will let them go easily.’
    – OyaMist
    Aug 27, 2020 at 13:16
  • Defender... why not become part of us but steady seek for justification for wandering on and why avoiding letting go? Then it would be even not respectless to speak out in such manner or a matter of danger. Aug 27, 2020 at 13:27

I guess it sounds to me like it might be "political" speech -- for example:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

... also ...

You're either with us, or against us

As you said, I think that's "argumentation, a tool to demonstrate power, used also for winning another's favor".

Alternatively it's "parental" speech -- for example a parent or a teacher might say, to a misbehaving child, "No, we don't do that here" -- or use other plural forms, like, "It's time for us to wash our hands, before supper".

I think that kind of parental we, fits with the way the plural is used, in many Indo-European languages -- including in German for example where a respectful child might refer to a teacher as "Sie" rather than "Du".

A synonym is to say "one" -- "one doesn't do that". That is archaic or at least old-fashioned in spoken English -- excessively formal, it sounds frosty rather than warm -- but is current in French and commonplace, friendly and unexceptional. It seems to me there's more social cohesion and bit less class warfare (rivalry) in French than in English, perhaps due to the educational systems, so people might not mind so much hearing "we" in French.

If I may say so, when the Buddha uses "we" in MN8 it sounds to me like this -- i.e. that he is speaking as teacher and leader -- another person's saying "we do this" might sound like "my way or the highway" (i.e., in an extreme case, "obey me or be banished as an enemy"), but coming from the Buddha it is good advice which "we" welcome (choose to welcome).

I tend to prefer "I-messages" when I speak or write, partly because they're low-conflict, and partly for the other reason you gave (i.e. to avoid a "lie, as for how could one speak for another").

It's theoretically possible too to use a 3rd-person singular -- e.g. "this person", instead of "I" -- but that is unconventional in English.

And beware, that can be seen as an affectation or an eccentricity (e.g. narcissism or depersonalisation), if that matters, and unfortunately that syntax therefore irritates some people who hear or read it.

Apparently (I didn't know) there's a technical word for that, Illeism:

Illeism /ˈɪli.ɪzəm/ (from Latin ille meaning "he, that") is the act of referring to oneself in the third person instead of first person. It is sometimes used in literature as a stylistic device. In real-life usage, illeism can reflect a number of different stylistic intentions or involuntary circumstances.

I've only ever heard people call it "referring to oneself in the third person".

Incidentally Wikipedia also says ...

Psychological studies show that thinking and speaking of oneself in the third person increases wisdom and has a positive effect on one's mental state because an individual who does so is more intellectually humble, more capable of empathy and understanding the perspectives of others, and is able to distance emotionally from one's own problems.

... which I hadn't heard before.

Generally though I've used "I", because it is conventional, and I'm not trying to claim to being the spokesperson of a group. Also, not to leave you with a wrong impression since I've said this much already, I try not to judge people based on their use of English syntax -- I think that Postel's law is a good idea ("conservative" talking and "liberal" or permissive listening) -- generally I'm grateful if people produce English well enough for me to understand, I don't want to judge people by that.

"I" seems to me friendlier than "we", or "this person".

Perhaps some people might not want to seem "friendly", and would rather seem "formal" -- and that's the other use-case for a "we" in English -- i.e. the "royal" we, which I understand as a claim of political power or perhaps of social hauteur.

Or a family member, a parent, wife or husband, or child, might use "we".

If or when you want to talk about the Dhamma, with authority, it might be better to avoid personal pronouns -- for example you might say, "Compassion is good, anger is bad, the Buddha said", etc., all without referring to "we" and "I" and so on. I think the Buddha usually talked like that, in the suttas, more often than not -- maybe that's called "objective" rather than "subjective".

  • Good that good householder made good founds under his kind, so that he could take of what my person often tries to give. Looks like you, yours, are required to collect all together before able to give certain individuals an ear to lend. Common Dutsen is the sign for lowest social group but possible worthy to raise a question on it and it's perfect training to use only 3-person and no calling of names, adressing just proper positions. Aug 26, 2020 at 22:41
  • I don't know the word "Dutsen" so I'm not sure I understand that sentence.
    – ChrisW
    Aug 27, 2020 at 8:06
  • 1
    Using "du", informal addressing, or English... Aug 27, 2020 at 12:42

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