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Impersonal sentences

Impersonal sentences
Activity SmartMemo
Activity SmartMemo
We are going to practise the use of YOU / ONE / THEY to make impersonal sentences.

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1- Look at the sentence and try to express that idea in the other language. 2- Move your mouse over the black button to check your answer. 3- If you were right, click on the green button, if wrong, click on the red.

We can use ONE and YOU to talk about people in general, including the speaker and the hearer. We only use them in generalisations, when we mean "anyone, at any time".

- You can't learn a language in one month = One can't learn a language in one month
- You need a Visa to enter the USA = One needs a visa to enter the USA
- You shouldn't be too hard on yourself = One shouldn't be too hard on oneself
- For you, your children are always the best = For one, one's children are always the best

ONE is more formal, so it is found mainly in written texts. When speaking, we prefer YOU.

THEY is not so general as ONE or YOU. It refers to a particular group of people, but not a precise group.

- They are very nice in this city  (not everybody in the world, but everybody who lives here)
- Your son is a teenager, and you know that they are very complicated (= teenagers in general, but not everybody in general)
- I'm sure they will sell a new model of this phone next year
- They are building a new bridge over the river
- They are planting flowers in all the city parks
- You work to earn money and they take it away with taxes

We also use THEY to talk about one or more people when we don't know who they are (= somebody)

- They broke my window yesterday
- I went to buy a Keenix camera, but they had bought the last one
- Who made this? If I catch them I'll take them to the police


- If you go to Hawaii they give you flowers at the airport

In this example YOU is not "you", but "everybody", and THEY refers to an unknown vague group of people, not to everybody

- What's wrong, are you ill? If you need a doctor, call the emergency number

Here I'm talking about you

- Why am I calling? Well, I suppose that if you need a doctor, you must call the emergency number, so that's why I'm calling.

Here I'm talking about a general situation (and I use it to explain what I am doing). In this case we can also say: If one needs..., one must call...

So YOU can mean "you" or "everybody". The context decides which meaning it has.


Item Match Comments
Aquí uno nunca sabe qué hacer Here, one never knows what to do
Bueno, uno nunca sabe Well, one never knows
Dicen que los romanos construyeron una pequeña ciudad cerca de aquí They say that Romans built a small city near here
En este río ya no se pescan peces, está muy contaminado You can't fish in this river, it's very polluted
Han cortado la calle, no podemos pasar They have cut the street, we can't get through
Han puesto un árbol de Navidad junto al río They put a Christmas tree by the river
Han restaurado la catedral el año pasado They restaured the cathedral last year
No se dice "cocreta", se dice "croqueta" You don't say "cocreta", you must say "croqueta"
No se necesita pasaporte para viajar dentro de tu país You don't need a passport to travel inside your country
No se puede aprender un idioma en dos meses You can't learn a language in two months
Si bebes veneno te mueres If you drink poison, you die
Si uno va a Italia, tiene que visitar Venecia If one goes to Italy, one has to visit Venice
Si vas a comisaría te darán un formulario para rellenar If you go to the police station they'll give you a form to fill in aquí el YOU puede ser impersonal o puedes ser tú en concreto (nos falta contexto), y el THEY es impersonal
Si vas a la luna necesitas un traje especial If you go to the moon you need a special suit
Uno necesita paz y tranquilidad One needs peace and quiet
Total number of items: 15
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