One (pronoun)

One (pronoun)

One is a pronoun in the English language. It is a gender neutral, third-person singular (though slightly anomalous, see reflexivity of one below) pronoun, commonly used in English prose. It is equivalent to the French pronoun on (from "homme", French for man), the German man, and the Spanish uno.


Cases and usage

One may be used in the nominative case, but (much unlike French on and German man) it can also be used in other cases. It occurs most commonly in sentences in the present simple tense or conditional constructions. Examples of its use:


  • One cannot help but grow older.
  • If one were to fail, that would be unfortunate.


Verbal object

  • Drunkenness makes one unreliable.

Prepositional object

  • A reputation travels with one.


  • That dead-end job at least gives one a chance to develop as a person.


The genitive, or possessive, form of one is one's, as in

  • One's experiences shape one's expectations.

There is no strong form analogous to hers and yours:

  • *One's is broken (not valid)
  • *I sat on one's (not valid)
  • *I broke one's. (not valid)


A reflexive form oneself appears at times:

  • To quit smoking is like giving oneself a raise.

Oneself is anomalous in its inability to refer back to anything other than one:

  • One exhausts oneself.
  • * A person exhausts oneself. (not valid)


Many English possessive pronouns, such as his, hers, and its, do not contain an apostrophe. One is an exception, because it is made possessive as follows:

  • One's apostrophes should always be placed correctly.

Multiple Pronouns

Some people find the repetitive use of "one" to be stilted so they will use generic "he":

"One can glean from this whatever he may." OR: One can glean from this whatever one may."

"If one were to look at himself, he would see..." OR: If one were to look at oneself, one would see..."

Either form is considered to be correct in formal English, but the form with "he" is sometimes viewed as sexist. (See Gender neutral pronoun.) To avoid this, and because the thrice repeated "one" in this case can be used to subtly imply that "one" is the listener, and that they are doing something wrong (in the above example, it would imply that the person does not look into some aspect of their own behavior, and that, if they did, they would find some flaw, usually indicated in the continuation of the sentence), the singular they is often used. For example:

"If one were to look at themself, they would see..."

Many language purists, however, consider singular they to be grammatically incorrect, and would thus discourage its use, especially in writing.

Style and rhetoric

In English, one can be considered to be overly formal, and people tend to avoid it. However, in doing so, they encounter problems only resolvable by awkward phrasings or a significant drop in formality. In particular, phrasing a sentence in a gender neutral way may require the passive voice, singular they, pluralising, you, or circumlocution. In addition, the word one can also be used for inanimate objects, creating possible confusion in careless writing. For example,

  • If one chooses to disobey the rules, one must be dealt with.

The second one may co-refer with the first, or it may refer to a specific rule. (If this sentence were spoken at all, the second one would require distinctive intonation for the second interpretation.)

Monarchs, and today particularly Queen Elizabeth II, are often depicted as using one in this way (see also Majestic plural).

In colloquial speech, the pronoun "one" is usually avoided in favour of the second person plural (i.e., you: "Giving up smoking is like giving yourself an increase in salary.").


One may have come into use as an imitation of French on.[1] French on derives from Latin homo, nominative singular for human. It is distinct from the French word for the English numeral one un(e), which never appears as a pronoun.

See also


  1. ^ "One", entry in The Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, edited by John Simpson and Edmund Weiner, Clarendon Press, 1989, twenty volumes, hardcover, ISBN 0-19-861186-2.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем решить контрольную работу

Look at other dictionaries:

  • One (disambiguation) — One is the number 1, and it may also refer to:* One (pronoun), a personal pronoun in the English language Companies, organizations and brands* One a former brand of Austrian mobile network operator rebranded to Orange Austria on 22 September 2008 …   Wikipedia

  • one — (wŭn) adj. 1. Being a single entity, unit, object, or living being: »I ate one peach. 2. Characterized by unity; undivided: »They spoke with one voice. 3. a) Of the same kind or quality: »two animals of one species …   Word Histories

  • one — [ wʌn ] function word *** One can be used in the following ways: as a number: We have only one child. How much does one pound of apples cost? as a determiner: He grew roses on one side of his garden, and vegetables on the other. We ll meet again… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • one — 1. When the phrase one of those who… is used, it is normally preferable to follow it with a plural verb (regarding those rather than one as the antecedent), except when particular emphasis is being placed on the individuality of one, in which… …   Modern English usage

  • One (word) — One is a common word in the English language. It can mean either the number 1 or be used as a pronoun.EtymologyThe Old English án is in Old Frisian ân, ên, Old Saxon ên (Middle Dutch, Dutch een ), Old High German (Middle High German, German) ein …   Wikipedia

  • one's self — pronoun see oneself * * * oneselfˈ or one s self pronoun The emphatic and reflexive form of ↑one • • • Main Entry: ↑one one s self see ↑oneself under ↑one • • • …   Useful english dictionary

  • one — ► CARDINAL NUMBER 1) the lowest cardinal number; 1. (Roman numeral: i or I.) 2) single, or a single person or thing. 3) (before a person s name) a certain. 4) informal, chiefly N. Amer. a noteworthy example of. 5) identical; the same …   English terms dictionary

  • one — [wun] adj. [ME < OE an, akin to Ger ein, Goth ains < IE * oinos (> Gr oinē, L unus, OIr ōen) < * e , * ei , prefixed pronominal stem meaning “the, this, this one”] 1. being a single thing or unit; not two or more 2. characterized by… …   English World dictionary

  • one and all — pronoun Etymology: Middle English oon and al : each one individually and jointly I greet you, one and all * * * one and all Everyone without exception • • • Main Entry: ↑one * * * one and all formal …   Useful english dictionary

  • one — (n.) O.E. an one, from P.Gmc. *ainaz (Cf. O.N. einn, Dan. een, O.Fris. an, Du. een, Ger. ein, Goth. ains), from PIE *oi no one, unique (Cf. Gk. oinos ace (on dice), L. unus …   Etymology dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”