Names Instead of the Pronoun You

[Writer’s Stuff]

[Pronouns 1: The Basics] [Pronouns 2: Grammar Rules] for previous pronoun posts.


When chatting with someone, we typically use the word “you” in English. While studying Korean, you isn’t really a word. 당신 and 너 both mean you, but they aren’t used as you in the same way as English uses you. The first is a formal general you. If you must use you because you don’t know the person, 당신 will work. 너 is used in truly informal situations or with foreigners. At least that’s been my study of the words.

In English, we use ‘you’ all the time. It’s a placeholder for a person we’re chatting to or with.

Here’s the thing most people don’t realize that we do. There are points where we want to emphasize the person we’re talking to. And we do what Korean always does, use their name.

In Korean, if we know the person, a pronoun shouldn’t be needed. Use the name to mark who you’re talking about and then just not use pronouns until there is possible confusion.

I write like that actually. I’ll start skipping out on different pieces of a sentences. But the goal is to still have meaning. It’s part of my writing style. A part I tend to limit as I edit to final copy.

It’s part of why I love Korean. It’s closer to my style of writing in many ways. As if I’ve had a brain that suits that language more than my own.


Let’s talk about this in strictly English. That’s the purpose of these blog posts, right? To teach English.

In English sentences, they are not correct unless there is a subject and verb. Styles and dialects can change that minutely, but generally speaking, all sentences need a subject and a verb.

We have command sentences such as “No!” and “Stop!” which do not have a written subject. The subject is assumed you. And many times if a subject is missing, we assume it’s ‘you’. The assumed you is more common than expected. It is still very rare in truly formal written English.

When we are chatting with someone, we use ‘you’. We don’t need to recall their name or anything special about them to indicate them. (In a story, you will need that stuff to indicate who is speaking when.) The other person in the dialogue is our partner and ‘you’.

What if I want to emphasize a statement? Such as ‘I love you’ is a general statement. It should be taken as if the person I’m speaking to is the one it’s directed at. But we can also take those statements as general you. So if I don’t want to leave any confusion/ I want to make it clear who I am stating my love to, I switch out the pronoun.

Pronouns are only useful when we know exactly who we are talking about. When the pronoun starts becoming questionable as to who it relates to, we need to switch to a name or descriptive that is clearly marking who. (It’s more common in books to have those descriptors, but who hasn’t heard ‘my daughter’ or ‘the most beautiful one in the room’ as indicators of who is being spoken about.)

So I can say ‘I love you’ and ‘I love Cyro Hartliebe’ and they could mean the same thing from my perspective. But from Cyro’s, they can look at the first sentence and assume I mean everyone. I have done that enough to make them think my ‘I love you’s may refer to the general you. They cannot think my ‘I love Cyro Hartliebe’ is anything but showing my love to my child. There is no mistake when I use a name.

When people hear their name, they are more drawn in to the sentence. When people hear their name in a positive sentence, it is more emotionally connecting.

Try it.

Have a general conversation and switch ‘you’ for their name. If there was a possible way to emphasis the meaning for a person, you’ll notice a bigger emotional response. Even if there wasn’t, the person has a tendency to be more connected to the conversation.

It’s part of why we say someone’s name in the middle of a dialogue. We are trying to make sure they are involved and listening. That they aren’t a general you and that we don’t mean the general you.

Makes sense?

There is a caveat, though.
Switching out an occasional ‘you’ builds emphasis and connection.
Doing so all the time will create annoyance and distance. It sounds childish to say someone’s name all the time. It could be they don’t know English well enough. This language has extensive pronoun usage. Not every language does.

Good luck using the switch. It’s hard to get right. Best to just add the name to the sentence.

Ex. Cyro, can you take the trash out?

vs

Ex. Can Cyro take the trash out?

The first is indicating the question is at Cyro. The second asks if Cyro is capable of it as if I’m not suggesting they should take the trash out as the first question indicates.

English has a lot of nuances. Take a chance when using the language. You’ll be surprised at how much this thing flexes if you give it the chance to.


TL:DR

‘You’ as a pronoun can be replaced in a sentence with someone’s name to create emphasis on a person. This cuts down questions of who the you is and builds higher emotional connection. Don’t do it rarely or you’ll look the fool.


More writing blog posts can be found here [Writer’s Stuff].

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.