inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Jas. 3:2)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

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 writer and the readers of this letter).

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

complete verse (James 3:2)

Following are a number of back-translations of James 3:2:

  • Uma: “We all occasionally behave mistakenly / make mistakes in our behavior. If for example there are people who do not behave mistakenly in their talking, they are people who are holy. They can control all the desires of their hearts.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “All of us (incl.) humans often make mistakes. If there is a person who has never made a mistake in his speech/words, that person has no fault/blemish in his customs/behavior and he knows how not to indulge the wishes of his body.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “As for us (incl.) humans, we often make mistakes in many ways. If there is a person who does not make mistakes by means of what he says, there is no longer anything to scold him for. He can control his whole body so that he will never do evil.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “All of us people, we of course make-mistakes many-times, especially in the way we speak. But in-case there is a person who is able-to-control/restrain his tongue so that he has no fault/lack in what he says, he has absolutely no fault/lack, because he also has-the-ability to be able-to-restrain/control all the parts of his body.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “For aren’t we all always/often making mistakes? The only one who is really far from sin is the person who doesn’t make-mistakes/do-wrong in his speaking, for he is able to control himself.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Many times all of us do not do what is right. Concerning the person who says that everything he speaks is right, I suppose that this person does right in everything he does. Because when one truly knows how to control his tongue, then he can control his heart concerning all of the desires of his body.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)