inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Acts 15:24)

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 addressees in Antioch).

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

complete verse (Acts 15:24)

Following are a number of back-translations of Acts 15:24:

  • Uma: “‘We(excl.) have heard that several people from us (excl.) here went there and confused you and shook up your faith with their teaching. So, so that you know, it was not we (excl.) who sent them.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “We (excl.) heard that there are reportedly disciples of Isa from us (excl.) here who went there to trouble your minds because of their teaching. We (excl.) did not tell them to do that.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “We have heard a report that there are some of our companions who are Jews who have troubled you because you are confused by their teaching. However, we did not send them.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “There are reportedly those who came-from here who went to disturb you by teaching what is wrong/different. But we (excl.) had not given them authority to do that.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “We(excl.) have sent a letter for we (excl.) heard news that some people coming from us (excl.) here have been troubling you for they have been agitating your minds/thinking with their teaching. It’s necessary for you to know that we (excl.) didn’t send them to do that which they were doing.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)


The Greek that is translated in English as “Law” or “law” is translated in Mairasi as oro nasinggiei or “prohibited things.” (Source: Enggavoter 2004)

In Yucateco the phrase that is used for “law” is “ordered-word” (for “commandment,” it is “spoken-word”) (source: Nida 1947, p. 198) and in Central Tarahumara it is “writing-command.” (wsource: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)