Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pronouns
Let’s do our part, switch off your lights, the above exhorts.

It sounds strange for two reasons. For one, the first clause is in the first person plural (us, our) while the latter is in the second person (your) — so there is an abrupt and puzzling shift in perspective from inclusive (speaker + addressee) to exclusive (addressee) pronouns and determiners.

For another, without a context given, switch off your lights seems to suggest that the addressee has lights on him/her. (However, with context given, it would sound less odd, e.g. You forgot to switch off your lights when you left last night.)

The message might have read:

Let’s do our part; switch off the/all lights.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Technically, it is correct. Why?

"Let's do OUR part" --> the message the ad designers are telling you is their part...

"Switch off YOUR lights" --> This is what we readers are supposed to do..

Haha.....

The Grammar Terrorist said...

I know what you're getting at, but I don't agree. It's odd to shift focus abruptly midway through addressing a hearer.

"Do YOUR part; switch off YOUR lights" is fine.

The original phrasing would be good only if there were a clearer separation between the two sentences: e.g. the first as headline, the latter in body text.

Gillian said...

Okay, it's about observing Earth Hour from all perspectives? Haha.

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Haha, you win ;-)

happie said...

Hi anonymous,

i do agree with the grammar terrorist as

'Let's do OUR part' includes the designers and the readers reading the ad.

'Switch off YOURS lights' pin points only at the readers. So the designers are excluded?

If you want the 1st sentence to remain, for the second sentence i would suggest it to be
'Switch off OUR lights'

Where the readers and the designers are included and everyone does their part. =)