Hi!  I was wondering whether generic you (used for people in general) can appear as the object of a verb in the past tense.  I got this question when I was reading this article:


What's your favorite place that you've played so far?

"It wasn't in the United States, it was actually over in Japan when I played there in 2016. I loved playing in the city of Sapporo. The people there — the culture was pretty unique, and they embraced you." https://www.courier-journal.co...ati-reds/3494702002/


This is how I got my question; I supposed "you" in "they embraced you" above does not refer to the interviewer but to people in general, so it should be generic you.  Generic you is more likely to appear in generic sentences, but the sentence above is less generic and more specific in that the sentence is in the past.


I would very much appreciate your comments!


Original Post

Hi, Yasukotta,

I see nothing wrong with using generic "you" in a past context. I have found all of the examples below on the Internet (I looked up the phrase "in those days you could...," which clearly refers to a generic "you"):

In those days you could buy a box of cigars for a dollar.
In those days you could work three days a week, maybe four sometimes, and you could live on that. 
In those days, you could go outside and pick them (flowers) whenever you wanted to without fear.
In those days you could even smoke on the underground.
In those days, you could study for the bar and take the bar examination, and begin practicing law without attending law school.

Last edited by Gustavo, Contributor

Thank you so much, Gustavo!


I understand what you said.  Would you think it will be no problem if generic you appears as the objects of verbs or prepositions.  For example:


(1) They embraced you.

(2) They bought you a box of cigars.

(3) They were nice to you.


Would the interpretation of "you" in (1) - (3) as generic you possible (with or without context)?

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