generic you

Discussion in 'עברית (Hebrew)' started by trigel, Dec 14, 2012.

  1. trigel Senior Member

    English - US, Korean
    In colloquial Hebrew the "generic you" (brought from English, used to put the audience in the situation/shoes of a generic person) is by default masculine singular (no matter what the gender composition of your audience is), unless the "you" refers to a necessarily feminine generic person, for example "when you menstruate..."

    This is especially true in spoken Hebrew where gender-neutrality would be time-consuming (to say things like "you-ms or you-fs verb-ms or verb-fs").

    Am I right? (It actually shouldn't be particularly jarring if that is the case, considering that all other indefinite/generic pronouns are masculine singular.)
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2012
  2. origumi Senior Member

    What is brought from English?
  3. GeriReshef

    GeriReshef Senior Member

    It seems to be right, but as there are no examples and only theoretical rules- I'm not sure I understood you well..
  4. Tararam Senior Member

    I had no idea this was called "Generic you" until I looked it up:

    I don't know if there's a rule about these situations. When I think of sentences of this kind I come up with different translations.
    "Brushing your teeth is healthy" = צחצוח השיניים הוא בריא
    or לצחצח שיניים זה בריא

    "If you (one) want(s) something to be done, you (one) must do it yourself (themselves)" = אם רוצים שמשהו ייעשה, יש לעשות אותו בעצמכם
    or אם אתה רוצה שמשהו ייעשה, יש לעשות אותו בעצמך
    When speaking to a woman, the second translation will take the feminine form (את). The first one will not (it will stay רוצים)

    I hope this helps...
  5. trigel Senior Member

    English - US, Korean
    As for there being no examples, sorry... I'll try to fix that aspect from now on.

    I can't post video links and I don't remember the exact thing he was talking about, but I have seen a guy in a talk show speaking to a woman using אתה in a position where generic you would be used in English. It was a string of events that "you" would go through.

    As you said, other contexts like giving advice might obey different rules. I'll either try to find examples or stand (dis)proven.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2012
  6. BezierCurve Senior Member

    I always thought it was the third person plural (used impersonally, without "they") that served that purpose, so, an English sentence like

    "You can buy cheap shoes in this shop"

    would be literally translated into Hebrew as:

    "[They] buy cheap shoes in this shop".

    So, can you use "you" instead? Has it changed just recently?
  7. trigel Senior Member

    English - US, Korean
    If it exists, perhaps it's limited to things that happen to "you". This guy was, I think, telling a story about an event in his life and using this construction.

    Maybe it agrees with the gender of the speaker as happens here (in colloquial Arabic: Hopefully this link will clarify a bit more the kind of conversational context I was describing.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2012
  8. Tararam Senior Member

    You mean this sentence: "When you go by bus, it takes a while"?
  9. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    I usually get round this by saying איש, בן אדם. I don't know what the preferred way of saying would be, though.
  10. C_J Member

    I think I know exactly what you mean trigel, I stumbled on such cases when I was proofreading translations from English to Hebrew.

    For instance: "When such a thing happens to you, you don't expect everything to be as it was before" or "When you're bored you usually look for something to occupy yourself with"
    If in these cases the "you" is generic and not personal (can be substituted by "one"), the generic colloquial and grammatically correct examples could be:
    "כשדבר כזה קורה [למישהו], לא מצפים שהכול יהיה כמו שזה היה לפני זה"
    "כש[למישהו]משעמם, בדרך כלל מחפשים תעסוקה/משהו לעסוק בו (או משהו להתעסק איתו"

    But yes, there is a widespread use of Hebrew "personal you" to address an unspecified person/s or express a generic statement, so in many cases (sometimes even in most cases) you will see
    "כשזה קורה לך, אתה לא מצפה שהכול יהיה כמו שזה היה לפני זה"
    "כשמשעמם לך, אתה בדרך כלל מחפש משהו שיעסיק אותך"
    In this case, most speakers will make the pronouns agree with the listener's/s' gender and number as if they were speaking personally and not in general (אתה>את/אתם), but you can usually still tell apart between personal/generic by the ammount of emphasis on the pronouns("כשזה קורה לך, אתה לא מצפה שהכול יהיה כמו שזה היה לפני זה"). This is not "borrowed from English", but just used to emphasise the informality and perhaps to imply that the listeners should imagine themselves in the described scenario (just like in English and other lnguages).

    And yes, some people make the pronouns agree with themselves and not the listener/s. especially when they're talking in general, but have themselves personally in mind: "כשאני ממהרת לעבודה בבוקר, אין לי זמן לעצמי"
    >"כשאת ממהרת לעבודה בבוקר, אין לך זמן לעצמך". Therefore, a female speaker can say to a male listener "כשאת בהריון/מניקה".

    And finally, there is a growing acceptance of the irregular exlusive use of "אתה" and its equivalents (yet it is considered highly informal). This last phenomenon, as you've noticed, probably caused by the high rate of multilinguality in Israel and reflects the strong influence of English and/or Russian in practicular (often comes hand in hand with such jewels such as "taking a picture = לקחת תמונה" and the like).
  11. Tararam Senior Member

    Haha... this reminds me of something.
    When watching TV, you often hear during interviews a man using the "generic" you in the feminine form:
    "כשאת יודעת מה את רוצה, את עושה את זה" (When you know what you want, you do it) which discloses the gender of the interviewer, in this case - a woman.
  12. trigel Senior Member

    English - US, Korean
    .כפי שאמרתי, לדעתי ההתפתחות הזאת מתרחשת משום שהיא תואמת את הדפוס בו כינויים סתמיים אחרים הם ממין זכר אם לא מציינים נשים או חופצים נקביים
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2013
  13. C_J Member

    Maybe, but this still is an erroneous usage. Personal pronouns are not indefinite, and are not interchangeable. Hebrew "ata" strongly implies you are referring to 2nd person m (unlike English "you" or Russian "ты" which are often used "generically").

    The correct, natural and "short" way would be using the infinitive, or default plural (without pronouns):
    "One does not simply walk into mordor" [="you do not simply walk into mordor"]
    "זה לא פשוט להיכנס למורדור", "למורדור לא נכנסים בקלות"

    Indefinite pronoun changes the meaning a bit:
    "איש לא יכול להיכנס למורדור בקלות"
    Personal pronoun used for present company:
    "אתה לא יכול להיכנס למורדור בקלות"
    Might be found in legal usage:
    "את/ה לא יכול/ה להיכנס למורדור בקלות"

Share This Page