Speaking Like a Native: The Impersonal ‘You’


The Speaking component of the IELTS exams tests your ability to speak with fluency and coherence.

One way to improve your fluency and coherence is to speak English as naturally as possible. And something that appears frequently in spoken English is the use of the impersonal ‘you’. 

The impersonal ‘you’ is used to avoid the he or she or people or someone scenario. For example, on the topic of work:

Sometimes you get home from work and you just want to relax. 

This is a lot more natural and conversational than saying Sometimes people get from work and they just want to relax. There’s nothing wrong with saying people/they, but the impersonal ‘you’ will make your speech sound much more effortless and casual.

Note that we are NOT talking about the examiner himself when you use the word you, but instead we are talking about people in general

Let’s have a look at a few more examples.

Work

Instead of saying To become successful people need to work hard and be patient. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Say To become successful you need to work hard and be patient. It doesn’t happen overnight. 

Health

Instead of saying It’s very important for people to brush their teeth twice a day, because …

Say Brushing your teeth twice a day is very important because …

Entertainment

Instead of saying  My favourite film genre is probably comedy. I don’t think a person can appreciate these films unless they have a sense of humour.

Say My favourite film genre is probably comedy. I don’t think you can appreciate these films unless you have a sense of humour.

Society

Instead of saying Unless a person has actually experienced prejudice, I don’t think he or she can really understand what it feels like.

Say Unless you’ve actually experienced prejudice, I don’t think you can really understand what it feels like. 

Want me to check if you’re using it correctly? Leave some sentences with the impersonal ‘you’ in the comments and I’ll let you know!