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Nosism, from Latin nos 'we', is the practice of using the pronoun we to refer to oneself when expressing a personal opinion.[1][2]

Depending on the person using the nosism different uses can be distinguished:

The royal we or pluralis majestatis[edit]

The royal we (pluralis majestatis) refers to a single person holding a high office, such as a monarch, bishop, or pope.

The editorial we[edit]

The editorial we is a similar phenomenon, in which an editorial columnist in a newspaper or a similar commentator in another medium refers to themself as we when giving their opinion. Here, the writer casts themself in the role of a spokesperson: either for the media institution that employs them, or more generally on behalf of the party or body of citizens who agree with the commentary.

The author's we or pluralis modestiae[edit]

Similar to the editorial we, pluralis modestiae is the practice common in mathematical and scientific literature of referring to a generic third person by we (instead of the more common one or the informal you):

  • By adding four and five, we obtain nine.
  • We are thus led also to a definition of "time" in physics.Albert Einstein

We in this sense often refers to "the reader and the author," since the author often assumes that the reader knows and agrees with certain principles or previous theorems for the sake of brevity (or, if not, the reader is prompted to look them up).

This practice is discouraged in the hard sciences, social sciences, humanities, and technical writing because it fails to distinguish between sole authorship and co-authorship.[3][4][5][6]

The kindergarten we[edit]

The kindergarten, or patronizing we is sometimes used in addressing instead of you, suggesting that the addressee is not alone in their situation such as "We won't lose our mittens today." This usage is emotionally non-neutral, but can carry condescending, ironic, praising, or other connotations, depending on intonation. [7]

The hospital we[edit]

This is sometimes employed by healthcare workers when addressing their patients; for example, "How are we feeling today?" [8]

The non-confrontative we[edit]

In distinction to the patronizing we is the non-confrontative we used in T–V languages such as Spanish where the phrase ¿Cómo estamos? (literally, "How are we?") is sometimes used to avoid both over-familiarity and under-formality among near-peer acquaintances. In Spanish, the indicative "we" form is also often used instead of the imperative for giving instructions, such as in recipes: batimos las claras a punto de nieve (we beat the egg whites until stiff).

The self-talk we[edit]

In engaging in self-talk, where the speaker is thinking or saying things to themselves, it can be natural to use the pronoun we, in the sense of "I," the mind, the thinker or speaker, and you, the body doing the action.[9] Some people then extend this self-talk we into conversations with others, like we went to the store in place of I got myself to the store.


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, Compact Edition, 1989, p. 1945
  2. ^ "A.Word.A.Day – nosism". Retrieved 11 January 2008.
  3. ^ Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (4 ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. 1994. p. 30. ISBN 1557982414.
  4. ^ Blanpain, Kristin (2008). Academic Writing in the Humanities and Social Sciences: A Resource for Researchers. Leuven: Voorburg. p. 43.
  5. ^ Wallwork, Adrian (2014). User Guides, Manuals, and Technical Writing: A Guide to Professional English. New York: Springer. p. 153.
  6. ^ Goldbort, Robert (2006). Writing for Science. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. p. 18.
  7. ^ "The Grammarphobia Blog: Turning up our nosism". 4 July 2011.
  8. ^ "The Grammarphobia Blog: Turning up our nosism". 4 July 2011.
  9. ^ "Silent Third Person Self-Talk Facilitates Emotion Regulation". 28 July 1017.