Session 9

People often say ‘you’ when describing their own experiences. Today we examine one psychologist’s theory about why this happens.

Namoonni yeroo waa’ee muuxannoo isaanii ibsanitti yeroo hedduu ‘you’ jedhu. Har’a kun maaliif akka ta’e ilalchisee yaadi-rimee ogeessa xinsamuu tokkoo ilaalla.

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

Why do we say 'you' to describe personal experiences?

People often say ‘you’ when describing their own experiences. Today we examine one psychologist’s theory about why this happens.

Namoonni yeroo waa’ee muuxannoo isaanii ibsanitti yeroo hedduu ‘you’ jedhu. Har’a kun maaliif akka ta’e ilalchisee yaadi-rimee ogeessa xinsamuu tokkoo ilaalla.

Before you listen

Consider the following questions:
1) Is ‘you’ a word which applies to just one person, or can it apply to more people?
2) How do we express our ideas about things which are normal?

Listen to the audio and take the quiz.

Show transcript Hide transcript

Firaol
Asham! Odeessaalee Afaan Inglizii sirri ta’an akka hubattuuf bakka itti si barsiifnu gara Listen Here baga nagana dhufte! An Firaoldha.

Sam
Hi, I’m Sam

Tom

And I’m Tom. Hi everybody.

Firaol
Oh! What’s wrong, Tom?

Tom
I’m sad. My dog died recently. You have a best friend when you have a dog.

Sam
What? I don’t have a dog.

Tom
I wasn’t talking about you, Sam!

Sam
You were! You said “you have a best friend when you have a dog”. And you were talking to me.

Firaol
Asitti, Toom muuxannoowaa dhuunfaasaa ibsaa jira. Garuu, bakka maqaa ‘I’, ‘you’ fayyadamaa jira. Why are you doing this, Tom?

Tom
Hmm…good question. We often use ‘you’ when we’re speaking in general.

Firaol
Speaking generally, ykn speaking in general, jechuun walumagalatti dubbachuuf jechuudha. General jechuun waligala jechuudha. Maqibsi kun generic dha. Kiliipii har’aa All in the Mind Raadiyoo BBC 4 irraa argame haacaqasnu. Piroofeesarri Saayikooloojii Ameerikaa, waa’ee generic you, ijaarsa you Toom fayyadamaa ture mari’atti. Haala Tom you itti filate ibsuuf sababa maalii laattii?

Insert
So we were studying this generic 'you', so 'you' that refers to people in general rather than a specific person. And see whether people use generic 'you' to essentially try to construct norms, uh, or normalise their own deeply personal experiences.

Sam
Ah! So, Tom is trying to normalise his experience!

Firaol
Normalise jechuun akka baramu gochuu jechuudha.  Do you think it’s normal to feel so close to a pet, Tom?

Tom
Yeah! Of course.

Sam
So you’re using 'you' to make your statement seem normal or general.

Firaol
Jechi make bakka bu’u biroon construct isa jedhuudha. Ammas caqasi. Jecha kamtu construct itti aanee dhufaa?

Insert
So we were studying this generic 'you', so 'you' that refers to people in general rather than a specific person. And see whether people use generic 'you' to essentially try to construct norms.

Sam
She said to construct norms.

Firaol
A norm jechuun maqaa ‘safara beekamu ykn barame tokko ibsuudha. Dubbatichi loqoda Ameeriikaa waan qabuuf sagaleessi jecha isa kan Sam irra adda.  Mee kiliipii keenya walakaa isa lammaaffaa haacaqasnu. Akka Ariyaanaa’tti, dhiibbaan lameen generic ‘you’ fayyadamuu maali?

Insert
And we found that using generic 'you' helped people to feel that the event was more distant in time and people reported that they were able to think about the event differently than they had before and had higher feelings of closure afterwards. 

Sam
Interesting! She suggests that using generic 'you' can help you think about past events differently! By not using ‘I’, she suggests things can feel further away.

Tom
Hmm. If I say ‘I have a best friend when I have a dog’, it does sound very personal!

Sam
Also, by avoiding I, and using ‘you’, we suggest that this experience is one that many people share. That’s also why we use the present tense – to suggest it’s always true.

Firaol
Generic you n miira kam nuuf fiduu danda’a jettii? Gaalee feelings of booda jiru ammas caqasi.

Insert
And we found that using generic 'you' helped people to feel that the event was more distant in time and people reported that they were able to think about the event differently than they had before and had higher feelings of closure afterwards.

Tom
She said closure.

Firaol
Closure jechuun cufinsa ykn xumura jechuudha. Do you think generic 'you' helps to provide closure, Tom? 

Tom
Actually, yes! Using generic 'you' helps to add distance between me and this painful memory.

Sam
Ah! Here, Tom said ‘to add’. Because ‘add’ starts with a vowel sound, we have a ‘w’ sound which links the two words. Say it with me!

add
to add
helps to add distance
generic 'you' helps to add distance

Tom
So, we can use generic 'you' to speak generally and to suggest something that is normal. It can also help to add distance between us and an event that we’re talking about.

Firaol
Akkasumas yeroon qabnu dhumate jira!

Sam
See?  Time goes quickly when you’re having fun!

Tom
Nice use of generic 'you' Sam.

Sam
Thanks very much Tom.

Firaol
Barnoota Listen Here dabalataatiif yeroo ittaanu walitti deebina! Nagaatti!

Listen to today’s clip in full here

Source: All in the Mind

Language features


generic you

This is a form of you we use when we want to comment on people in general. It is similar in form to the pronoun ‘one’. Use of you in this way implies that we are speaking based on our own experiences. If we are making generalisations, we often use the present simple tense, which suggests that something is always true.

I’m sad because my dog died. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone!

We can also use the possessive form, your, to the same effect.

Your dog is like your best friend. It’s sad when they die.


norm
A norm is an abstract noun which means ‘something that is standard’. It relates to the adjective, 'normal'.

The legal norm in this situation is for the buyer to pay the seller as quickly as possible.

We can also use the norm. This means ‘the normal thing in a context’.

We didn’t use smartphones in the past but in recent years they’ve become the norm.

When we want to say that something is actively being made normal we can use the verb ‘normalise’.

There are allegations that the politician is trying to normalise political violence in his speeches.

closure
Closure is a feeling of relief or resolution. We often use closure to stress the long duration of the experience which came before.

The funeral was horrible to organise but I did feel a sense of closure when it was all finished.

Why do we say 'you' to describe personal experiences?

3 Questions

Choose the correct answer.
Deebii sirrii ta’e fili.

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y

What are some of the norms in your country? Tell us on our Facebook group.

Join us for our next episode of Listen Here, when we will learn more useful language and practise your listening skills.
Sagantaa Listen Here kan qooqa daran faayida-qabeessa ta’an keessatti barannuufi daandeettiiwwan dhageettiikee ittiin shaakaltutti yeroo itaanu walitti deebina.

Session Vocabulary

  • in general
    waliigalatti

    generally
    walumaagala

    generic
    bu’uurri

    construct
    ijaari