1. Used by the speaker or writer to indicate the speaker or writer along with another or others as the subject: We made it to the lecture hall on time. We are planning a trip to Arizona this winter.
2. Used to refer to people in general, including the speaker or writer: "How can we enter the professions and yet remain civilized human beings?" (Virginia Woolf).
3. Used instead of I, especially by a writer wishing to reduce or avoid a subjective tone.
4. Used instead of I, especially by an editorialist, in expressing the opinion or point of view of a publication's management.
5. Used instead of I by a sovereign in formal address to refer to himself or herself.
6. Used instead of you in direct address, especially to imply a patronizing camaraderie with the addressee: How are we feeling today?
[Middle English, from Old English wē; see we- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: Appositive nouns or noun phrases sometimes lead writers and speakers to choose incorrect pronoun forms. Thus us is frequently found in constructions such as Us owners will have something to say about the contract, where we is required as the subject of the sentence. Less frequently, we is substituted in positions where us should be used, as in For we students, it's a no-win situation. In all cases, the function of the pronoun within the sentence should determine its form, whether or not it is followed by a noun or noun phrase. See Usage Notes at be, I1.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.