dual vs. plural (Matt. 20:22)

Many languages in the world distinguish between plural and dual (and sometimes trial) pronouns (for instance, “you” specifically addressing many, two, or three people).

In Matt. 20:22 (“You do not know what you are asking…” in one English translation) it is left open whether “you” refers to James and John or James and John and their mother (who had asked the questions preceding Jesus’s answers).

While one Fijian translation uses a trial and the Wantoat uses a plural (both indicating that the mother is included), the Bislama translators (in the Nyutesteman long Bislama of 1980) and the Tok Pisin translators use a dual (indicating that the mother is not included).

One of the translators explains: “Here, because of differences between this Matthew passage and the parallel passage which begins at Mark 10:35, the translator must enter into the issues of the so-called ‘Synoptic Problem’ when deciding how many people Jesus is addressing. I suggest the following guidelines for making a decision here and in the passage considered below: a single real historical event is recounted by both Mark and Matthew, both without error, although each with their own selection of material and emphasis. So what do we make of the fact that Matthew has James and John’s mother asking the question, whereas Mark does not mention her at all, having the two men themselves ask it? We conclude that she must have been there, since Matthew says she was; but she was not important in Mark’s eyes, and so he abbreviates her out of his account. Now the answer Jesus gave to the question is identical in the Greek text of the two gospels; and it must have had only one intention, even though as it stands in Greek, it is ambiguous as to dual or trial reference. I suggest that although the mother asked the question, Jesus either perceived that she was merely a ‘front’ for the two men, or else his primary interest was in them anyway, and so he bypasses the mother and makes his answer directly to them. This is certainly the way Mark saw the situation.”

Source: Ross McKerras in Notes on Translation 2/1 1988, p. 53-56.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Eph. 1:11)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, translators typically select the inclusive form (including the reader of the letter). The Tok Pisin translation uses the exclusive form, though.

Source: SIL International Translation Department (1999)

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Matt. 15:33)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, the translators into Karbi selected the exclusive we (excluding Jesus).

M. John explains the difficulty of the choice this way: “If we take the previous sentence (in which Jesus expresses his desire that the crowds must be fed) in close connection with this verse, the inclusive we, meaning the group including Jesus, would be natural. In verse 34, however, Jesus asks the question, ‘How much bread do you (not we) have?’ So the choice of the particular form of the pronoun will relate verse 33 either to the sentence before it or to the sentence after it. If we use the inclusive we it would mean that the disciples imply a close relation between themselves and Jesus, while Jesus sets them at a distance by his question. If we use the exclusive we, it would be the disciples themselves who make that distinction.”

Source: W. R. Hutton in The Bible Translator April 1953, p. 86ff. and M. John in The Bible Translator 1976, p. 237ff.

The Tok Pisin translators chose the inclusive form. SIL International Translation Department (1999) lists two opinions: “The disciples imply that it is Jesus alone who could provide, that it is beyond them (i.e., the disciples) to find that much food in the desert.” vs. “It seems that the disciples might easily have included Jesus with them, since it was he who had provided the abundance of food the previous time. Also, this is an intimate conversation between the Twelve and Jesus. Therefore, it would be natural for them all to consider that they are all involved in this problem.”

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (2Cor. 5:16)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, translators typically select the exclusive form (excluding the addressee).

Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.

The Mal and the Tok Pisin translators used an inclusive form.

Source: David Filbeck in The Bible Translator 1994, p. 401ff.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (1Cor. 2:12)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, the Karbi translation uses the exclusive pronoun, since “Paul has been arguing strenuously for the inspiration of himself and his assistants or fellow preachers and here God has graciously revealed more to them than to others.” (Source: W. R. Hutton in The Bible Translator April 1953, p. 86ff.)

SIL International (1999), however, recommends the inclusive form, referring to Paul and the Corinthian Christians. This is what the Tok Pisin translation also chooses.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (John 21:24)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, translators typically select the exclusive form (excluding the addressee). (Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff. and SIL International Translation Department (1999))

In Huautla Mazatec, Tok Pisin and Jarai, however, the translators selected the inclusive we.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Matt. 20:22)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, translators typically select the exclusive form (excluding Jesus). In Tok Pisin this is further specified by the use of the dual mitupela — the “two of us.”

Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.

See also dual vs. plural (Matt. 20:22).

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (2Cor. 5:8)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, translators typically select the exclusive form (excluding the addressee).

Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.

The Tok Pisin and the Copainalá Zoque translators also chose an inclusive form, because “we do not feel that Paul expected to be made an exception to believers in general. Informant insists on inclusive.”

Source: Roy and Margaret Harrison in Notes on Translation with Drills, p. 173ff. (Copainalá Zoque) and SIL International Translation Department (1999) (Tok Pisin).

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (John 9:20)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, translators typically select the exclusive form (excluding Pharisees). The Tok Pisin specifies this even more by using the dual (only including two, the parents of the blind man).

Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Matt. 20:30)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, translators typically select the exclusive form (excluding Jesus). In Tok Pisin this is further specified by the use of the dual mitupela — the “two of us.

Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Acts 23:9)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

According to Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan (in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.) translators select the exclusive form (including some Pharisaic scribes and excluding the rest of the Council).

The Tok Pisin translations, however, follows the recommendation of SIL International Translation Department (1999) and uses the inclusive pronoun for this (“referring to the speakers and their fellow Judeans in exile”).

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (2Cor. 3:13)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, translators typically select the inclusive form (including the reader of the letter).

The Tok Pisin translators have selected the exclusive form.

Source: SIL International Translation Department (1999)