English: The use of the pronoun "one".

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Re: English: The use of the pronoun "one".

Postby Lianne » Tue May 21, 2024 2:30 pm

AvidLearner# wrote:1. I know that one would normally say "I've decided to do something..." if one is talking about something they're going to do in the future that they haven't started doing yet.

2. I know that one would normally say "I've decided to do something..." if one is talking about something one is going to do in the future that one hasn't started doing yet.


I wrote sentence #1 when discussing the present perfect in the phrase "I've decided to do something...". I'm wondering about the pronouns I used. I know that if one uses the pronoun "one", then one has to say "one" further in the sentence if they decide to mention again the person that the first "one" refers to. It seemed to me though that in #2 "one" was really an overused pronoun, and that version #1 sounded better than version #2. Which version would you use? Thanks in advance.


#2 definitely sounds awkward to me with the repetition of "one". #1 sounds more natural. But I agree with those who said they would use "you" instead.

I do occasionally use the pronoun "one", but not frequently. I don't agree with those who say it's unnatural. It's just not especially common in informal, spoken English. Similar to "whom", I suppose.
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Re: English: The use of the pronoun "one".

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Tue May 21, 2024 5:50 pm

dubendorf wrote:
Iversen wrote:In Danish (and German) one says "man", which carries the antiquated tinge of referring to a male, but the ladies have so far not come up with an alternative - and it's better to have a single pronoun that can be used about all existing genders. And in Jutish dialects (spoken in Jutland) one can actually use /ien/ (=én=1) just as the Brits have been doing since the 15. century.


Yes, this is something I am amused by learning Norwegian. Using "one" sounds sort of antiquated or pompous to a native English speaker, but "man" is quite common in Norwegian.


”Man” in Swedish - and sometimes ”en”.
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Re: English: The use of the pronoun "one".

Postby Cainntear » Tue May 21, 2024 6:28 pm

Lianne wrote:#2 definitely sounds awkward to me with the repetition of "one". #1 sounds more natural. But I agree with those who said they would use "you" instead.

I was trying to address this point earlier on, but I got a little sidetracked and let it slip a bit...
me wrote:The sort of person that uses "one" is likely to absolutely hate option 1,

The problem is that every native speaker who has responded likely falls into the category of people who do not use "one". What validity do the survey results have?

The best case scenario is that we're looking at an "Emperor's nose" situation, where you're just getting random information.
The worst case scenario is that you're generating an answer that is opposite to the true answer, because people who do not use "one" are going to feel more comfortable with something that is more like something they themselves would say.

Intellectually, I anticipate that the most correct answer would be to replace repetitions of "one" with "he". I've done quick bit of Googling, and I've found examples of "they" and "he or she", and even of a switch to the second person... although admittedly they've avoided using the pronoun "you" and have just switched to imperative voice.

I believe that the internet data is unreliable, though, because I really imagine that it's mostly people who don't use "one" habitually trying to make themselves look fancy by writing the way they think they "should".

Consider this: if you really wanted to understand the difference between "thou" and "you", would you listen to a bunch of modern cosplayers or would you look at archived writings from the time that that was common language...?
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Re: English: The use of the pronoun "one".

Postby iguanamon » Tue May 21, 2024 6:33 pm

I use the pronoun "one" sometimes here on the forum to avoid a perception that a "general you" is directed to the op who might take offense if they perceive the " general you" as a "personal you" directed to them. Perception is often reality.

Responding in the forum can be dicey in that the written word doesn't convey tone or have body language for context. So, I find using "one" to be a way to use impersonal language. I rarely use "one" as a native English-speaker in general conversation.

In Catalan, the word "hom" (man/also to include women) is used primarily in writing as an impersonal pronoun to similar effect.
WordReference.com wrote:Hom (pron; indef):
1. Paraula que es fa servir com a subjecte de l'oració per indicar que l'acció del verb la realitzen una o més persones sense dir quines; sovint significa 'la gent en general'.
2. Un o una, o a vegades la persona que parla; també es pot usar acompanyat del determinant un:davant aquella situació hom no sabia què pensar; generalment...
My own loose/rough translation: 1. Word that is used as a subject of a sentence in order to indicate that the action of the verb is preformed by one or more persons without saying which; often meaning "people in general".
2. One, or sometimes the person who is speaking; generally: facing that situation, one doesn't know what to think
Last edited by iguanamon on Tue May 21, 2024 7:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: English: The use of the pronoun "one".

Postby Lianne » Tue May 21, 2024 6:46 pm

Cainntear wrote:Intellectually, I anticipate that the most correct answer would be to replace repetitions of "one" with "he". I've done quick bit of Googling, and I've found examples of "they" and "he or she", and even of a switch to the second person... although admittedly they've avoided using the pronoun "you" and have just switched to imperative voice.

I believe that the internet data is unreliable, though, because I really imagine that it's mostly people who don't use "one" habitually trying to make themselves look fancy by writing the way they think they "should".

Consider this: if you really wanted to understand the difference between "thou" and "you", would you listen to a bunch of modern cosplayers or would you look at archived writings from the time that that was common language...?


I was telling the truth when I said I do sometimes use "one"! I'm not opposed to it being used at all; I just think the sentence that uses it over and over again feels excessive. Not incorrect, just less natural than the sentence that uses a combo of "one" and "they".

I definitely wouldn't recommend replacing it with "he", as such unnecessarily gendered language is on its way out. "They" is replacing the clunky "he or she" or the old-fashioned "he" in almost every context.
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Re: English: The use of the pronoun "one".

Postby Cainntear » Tue May 21, 2024 7:50 pm

Lianne wrote:
Cainntear wrote:Intellectually, I anticipate that the most correct answer would be to replace repetitions of "one" with "he". I've done quick bit of Googling, and I've found examples of "they" and "he or she", and even of a switch to the second person... although admittedly they've avoided using the pronoun "you" and have just switched to imperative voice.

I believe that the internet data is unreliable, though, because I really imagine that it's mostly people who don't use "one" habitually trying to make themselves look fancy by writing the way they think they "should".

Consider this: if you really wanted to understand the difference between "thou" and "you", would you listen to a bunch of modern cosplayers or would you look at archived writings from the time that that was common language...?

I was telling the truth when I said I do sometimes use "one"! I'm not opposed to it being used at all; I just think the sentence that uses it over and over again feels excessive. Not incorrect, just less natural than the sentence that uses a combo of "one" and "they".

Yes, but I would still put good money on the idea that you only do it deliberately and stylistically, and that you don't have a natural pattern or use, so your instinct isn't really reliable on what the natural pattern of usage of "one" really is.
I definitely wouldn't recommend replacing it with "he", as such unnecessarily gendered language is on its way out. "They" is replacing the clunky "he or she" or the old-fashioned "he" in almost every context.

I wouldn't personally call "he" old-fashioned -- I find it more powerful to simply refer to the fact that it's not really "native English". The usage of they to denote an unspecified person is long established in English, and the usage of "he" is basically translationese from Latin, where masculine-by-default was a grammatical rule. This rule is still held by all the Romance languages, but it was really never a thing in English until some teachers decided that we should act more like Latin because that's somehow "correct" -- heck, quite a lot of them believed in the myth that Latin was the "mother" of all languages.

I grew up using "they" as an unspecified person, and I was explicitly told by my primary teachers that it was absolutely OK to speak like that (cos everyone in my village did!) but that we should never write it because it would be considered wrong. In university, I had a lecturer who was complaining that the course text book referred to the programmer as "she" and the user as "he" because of an attempt to avoid the thing where the programmer would be "he" be default. His point wasn't a reactionary "we've always done it that way, how dare you say we're wrong", but he said he'd much prefer it if they'd been allowed to do it "the Scottish way"... because the book was written by a colleague of his, a Scottish woman, who would have loved to use "they", but the publishers didn't let her.
And I had genuinely thought it was just a Scotticism, but I don't believe so any more.

But yeah... been rambling a bit.

Let me ask you this: do you think someone who gets their knickers in a twist about eliminating gendered language is going to be more effected by being told degendering is a good thing, or by being told that the language feature that they're defending is a funny foreign corruption of English...? :twisted: :twisted:
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Re: English: The use of the pronoun "one".

Postby Lianne » Tue May 21, 2024 8:57 pm

Cainntear wrote:Yes, but I would still put good money on the idea that you only do it deliberately and stylistically, and that you don't have a natural pattern or use, so your instinct isn't really reliable on what the natural pattern of usage of "one" really is.


You would lose that bet! Whether I'm the best example of a typical native English speaker, I can't say. :) People speak in a lot of different ways.

Cainntear wrote:
I definitely wouldn't recommend replacing it with "he", as such unnecessarily gendered language is on its way out. "They" is replacing the clunky "he or she" or the old-fashioned "he" in almost every context.

I wouldn't personally call "he" old-fashioned -- I find it more powerful to simply refer to the fact that it's not really "native English". The usage of they to denote an unspecified person is long established in English, and the usage of "he" is basically translationese from Latin, where masculine-by-default was a grammatical rule. This rule is still held by all the Romance languages, but it was really never a thing in English until some teachers decided that we should act more like Latin because that's somehow "correct" -- heck, quite a lot of them believed in the myth that Latin was the "mother" of all languages.

I grew up using "they" as an unspecified person, and I was explicitly told by my primary teachers that it was absolutely OK to speak like that (cos everyone in my village did!) but that we should never write it because it would be considered wrong. In university, I had a lecturer who was complaining that the course text book referred to the programmer as "she" and the user as "he" because of an attempt to avoid the thing where the programmer would be "he" be default. His point wasn't a reactionary "we've always done it that way, how dare you say we're wrong", but he said he'd much prefer it if they'd been allowed to do it "the Scottish way"... because the book was written by a colleague of his, a Scottish woman, who would have loved to use "they", but the publishers didn't let her.
And I had genuinely thought it was just a Scotticism, but I don't believe so any more.

But yeah... been rambling a bit.

Let me ask you this: do you think someone who gets their knickers in a twist about eliminating gendered language is going to be more effected by being told degendering is a good thing, or by being told that the language feature that they're defending is a funny foreign corruption of English...? :twisted: :twisted:


I didn't know that about the origin of the default masculine! That just gives me more reason to dislike it (I delight in breaking "rules" that are really just attempts to force Latin rules on English), but honestly, the sexism is enough for me. I don't know if either argument would work on someone who's really clinging to it, though.
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Re: English: The use of the pronoun "one".

Postby golyplot » Wed May 22, 2024 12:35 am

Lianne wrote: I don't agree with those who say it's unnatural. It's just not especially common in informal, spoken English. Similar to "whom", I suppose.


Probably the most common usage is the "One does not simply walk into Mordor" meme.
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Re: English: The use of the pronoun "one".

Postby Cainntear » Wed May 22, 2024 3:55 pm

Lianne wrote:
Cainntear wrote:Yes, but I would still put good money on the idea that you only do it deliberately and stylistically, and that you don't have a natural pattern or use, so your instinct isn't really reliable on what the natural pattern of usage of "one" really is.


You would lose that bet!

How do you know?
Whether I'm the best example of a typical native English speaker, I can't say. :)

But you also can't say what you say when you're not thinking about it. This is a very often overlooked matter.

I have heard plenty of people "correcting" learners who have asked permission with "can I...?" to "may I...?", and they have no idea that they themselves say "can I...?" all the time. I remember in my childhood being told that the endings "-er" and "-or" (think "doctor" and "painter") were pronounced the same. I insisted that I said them differently. But whoever was telling me said that lots of people thought that, and as soon as they started trying to say word thinking about the suffix, they would pronounce them differently, even though they absolutely didn't in their natural speech.

You believe you use "one" in natural speech... but you cannot know that you do!
People speak in a lot of different ways.

Yes, but that's a long way from saying that people speak in every possible way, so it is not a valid counter to any suggestion of whether there is anyone who speaks in a particular specified way or not. And crucially, I did not even claim that no-one spoke a particular way -- I said it was highly unlikely that anyone would use both "one" and singular they in natural speech (ie spontaneous speech not being consciously controlled for style and effect).
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Re: English: The use of the pronoun "one".

Postby Lianne » Wed May 22, 2024 6:08 pm

Cainntear wrote:
Lianne wrote:
Cainntear wrote:Yes, but I would still put good money on the idea that you only do it deliberately and stylistically, and that you don't have a natural pattern or use, so your instinct isn't really reliable on what the natural pattern of usage of "one" really is.


You would lose that bet!

How do you know?
Whether I'm the best example of a typical native English speaker, I can't say. :)

But you also can't say what you say when you're not thinking about it. This is a very often overlooked matter.

I have heard plenty of people "correcting" learners who have asked permission with "can I...?" to "may I...?", and they have no idea that they themselves say "can I...?" all the time. I remember in my childhood being told that the endings "-er" and "-or" (think "doctor" and "painter") were pronounced the same. I insisted that I said them differently. But whoever was telling me said that lots of people thought that, and as soon as they started trying to say word thinking about the suffix, they would pronounce them differently, even though they absolutely didn't in their natural speech.

You believe you use "one" in natural speech... but you cannot know that you do!
People speak in a lot of different ways.

Yes, but that's a long way from saying that people speak in every possible way, so it is not a valid counter to any suggestion of whether there is anyone who speaks in a particular specified way or not. And crucially, I did not even claim that no-one spoke a particular way -- I said it was highly unlikely that anyone would use both "one" and singular they in natural speech (ie spontaneous speech not being consciously controlled for style and effect).

I don't know how to convince you that I know for a fact I sometimes use a given word. I understand that it's sometimes hard to know how you pronounce things because once you focus on it it changes how you say it. I disagree that this is the same thing.

I'm not trying to argue that "people speak in every possible way". I don't think that "some of us actually use the pronoun "one" in normal speech sometimes" is a wild claim.

If you want to write off my patterns of speech as some weird anomaly, that's fine. It wouldn't be the first time someone on this forum declared that I could not possibly speak the way I do lol. I was just trying to answer the question with my own experiences.

Edit: I worry this comes across as snarky. Genuinely, I just only meant to speak for myself, and don't want to get into a big argument about it. (I'm having flashbacks to a whole kerfuffle about whether "latter" and "ladder" are ever pronounced the same.)
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