We vs. They

'We are the working class.' 'They are the upper class'. We use 'we' to refer to a group we feel belonged to and use 'they' when we feel a social distance.

"We" vs. "They" in the English Grammar

Main Similarity and Difference

'We' and 'they' are both plural personal pronouns, but 'we' is the first-person personal pronoun, and 'they' is the third-person personal pronoun. Here, we will discuss these two.

We: Subject Pronoun

'We' is used as the subject of a verb. When the subject of a sentence (the one that does the action of the verb) is 'one or more people including us', we use the pronoun 'we'.

We are late, again!

We are going to Italy for a year.

People in General

'We' can also refer to people in general.

We should be careful how we talk in front of our kids.

Academic Context

In the academic context, writers or speakers use 'we' instead of 'I' to involve the readers or listeners in the process of what is being said or written.

Next, we will discuss the differences between the two approaches.

The Royal We

In the past, kings, queens, judges, etc. referred to themselves using 'we' instead of 'I'. This is called 'the royal we' or 'majestic plural'.

We shall speak to the ambassador this evening.

Sarcasm or Encouragement

Sometimes, people use 'we' instead of 'you' to either sound sarcastic or condescending; or sound persuasive or encouraging.

Apparently we're leaving the dirty dishes in the sink. (sarcastic)


If we want to clearly refer to a group of people and we want to put emphasis on that, we can put 'we' before nouns.

We patriots would never betray our country.

We all need a break once in a while.


'They' is a third-person pronoun. It is used as the subject of a verb. 'They' refers to a group of people, animals, or things.

They are exchange students from Peru.

They migrate in the winter.

The Singular They

'They' is used instead of 'he' or 'she' to refer to a person whose sex is not mentioned or is unknown. This is called the 'singular they'.

Everyone needs to feel they are safe.

Generic They

We can use 'they' to refer to people in general, especially when we want to say a general idea or a famous saying.

As they say, out with the old, in with the new.

They say there will be a shortage of water in the near future.


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