'one' and 'ones'

Level: beginner

We use one (singular) and ones (plural):

See those two girls? Helen is the tall one and Jane is the short one.
Which is your car, the red one or the blue one?
My trousers are torn. I need some new ones.

See those two girls? Helen is the one on the left.
Let's look at the photographs – the ones you took in Paris.

after which in questions:

You can borrow a book. Which one do you want?
Which ones are yours?

one and ones 1

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one and ones 2

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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 12/09/2017 - 06:11

In reply to by Ola Jamal

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Hello Ola Jamal,

Although you can hear some examples like this from time to time they are quite unusual and occur in very formal and/or literary use, and even there they are rare. We would generally say the sentence with 'one' rather than without.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Fru Strande on Sun, 13/08/2017 - 19:28

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I love it. The exercises are very helpful.

Submitted by Nestor Teofilus on Sat, 10/06/2017 - 00:30

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Good day everyone This lessons are quite interesting and I am learning a lot especially through practical activities or exercises. I am suggesting from our tutor at least to give us long pieces of writings to improve our writing skills.

Submitted by ganesh4023 on Fri, 21/04/2017 - 14:16

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i just have a doubt in the below sentence. It is regrettable that a case relating to the promotion of communal disharmony, one that had a bearing on riots and reprisals in the following months, was mired in judicial stagnation and administrative apathy for a quarter century. in the above sentence,one that had a bearing on riots and reprisals in the following months is acting as an adjective clause for noun CASE or it is acting as a noun clause. could you please help me. thanks in advance

Hello ganesh4023,

The clause 'one that had a bearing on riots and reprisals in the following months' has an adjectival role. It is a particular rhetorical device which repeats the subject of the relative clause. We can rewrite the sentence with a normal relative clause in two ways:

It is regrettable that a case relating to the promotion of communal disharmony that had a bearing on riots and reprisals in the following months was mired...

or

It is regrettable that a case relating to the promotion of communal disharmony, which had a bearing on riots and reprisals in the following months, was mired...

The first sentence has a defining relative clause and the second has a non-defining relative clause; both are possible. However, there are problems with both possibilities. The first is quite a hard sentence to follow as there are two defining relative clauses in it - one reduced to a participle ('relating') and one introduced with 'that'. The second is ambiguous - the non-defining relative clause could refer to the 'a case' or to 'communal disharmony'.

Another way to phrase the sentence uses a clause which repeats the subject or uses 'one' instead:

It is regrettable that a case relating to the promotion of communal disharmony, a case that had a bearing on riots and reprisals in the following months, was mired...

or

It is regrettable that a case relating to the promotion of communal disharmony, one that had a bearing on riots and reprisals in the following months, was mired...

 

This is a clearer way to structure the sentence and also has a rhetorical effect of emphasising the point being made.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by nustaangelica on Mon, 23/01/2017 - 22:35

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Hello all We can say : I've got two books: which do you want? or which ones do you want? how is sound properly? Thanks.

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 24/01/2017 - 06:37

In reply to by nustaangelica

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Hello nustaagelica,

Both are correct grammatically but the meaning is different.

...which do you want? means you will give the person one book

...which ones do you want? means that you will give the person more than one book

Obviously, if you have only two books then the second question makes no sense - there is no choice possible. But if you have three books then you might ask which ones do you want? as the person can choose two of the available three.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by shebaraju on Thu, 10/11/2016 - 17:37

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Hi, Could you please clear me this: What is the difference between the usage of one and you in the below two sentences.When can we use one and you. will it make any difference in meaning? 1. If one has strong will, he will be able to do that. 2. If you have strong will,you will be able to do that. Also in the first sentence whether we can use you instead of he in the second part of the sentence.

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 11/11/2016 - 09:46

In reply to by shebaraju

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Hello shebaraju,

There is no difference in meaning between 'one' and 'you' when used as indefinite personal pronouns. The only difference between them is a difference in use: 'one' is used in formal or intellectual situations and 'you' is used in others.

'you' doesn't work in the place of 'he' in the first sentence – 'one' is probably the best, though 'he' was also traditionally used.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Momocompanyman on Mon, 11/07/2016 - 17:25

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Hello; I don't understand the sentence with pronouns one and ones : I don't mind what kind of car it is, I just want one that gets me there

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 12/07/2016 - 07:30

In reply to by Momocompanyman

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Hello medmomo,

We use 'one' (singular) or 'ones' (plural) to replace a noun which is repeated in the sentence. For example:

I don't mind what kind of car it is, I just want a car that gets me there.

I don't mind what kind of car it is, I just want one that gets me there.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Heal on Thu, 16/06/2016 - 19:09

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thanks i hope i'll get more knowledge at this web.

Submitted by Oscar12345 on Mon, 23/05/2016 - 13:24

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Hello, I have a question from my linguistics textbook that I find quite confusing and don't know how to answer... Here's the example sentence: Marjorie invited the two professors with gray beards from Princeton and Bill invited the ones from Yale. The question is: Why can't the pronoun "ones" take as its antecedent the constituent beginning with "two"? This is how I interpret the question: Why can't the pronoun "ones" take as its antecedent[,] (the textbook should have added a comma here) the constituent beginning with "two". So I think basically it's trying to ask why isn't "ones" equivalent to "professors with gray beards" From here, I learned that we use one/ones to avoid unnecessary repetition, but is it limited to nouns only? Can we use one/ones to avoid repeating phrases or clauses, too? If it is only limited to nouns, the "ones" in the example sentence should be referred to "professors" instead of "professors with gray beards". And that's why they are not equivalent. However, if we can use one/ones to avoid repeating phrases and clauses, too, then I think I won't be able to answer the question. Please help me clarify the problem above and thank you so much!
As far as I know, "the ones" in the example refers to the pharse "the two professors with gray beards from Princeton". A good dictionary like Cambridge Dictionary will provide you more information about "one?.

Submitted by Eman tohamy on Tue, 10/05/2016 - 15:03

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Hello, can i know why do we use one instead of ones in the question N.2

Hello Eman tohamy,

We use 'ones' in this sentence because 'mobiles' is plural. If we were asking about one mobile then we would say 'one'.

The new mobile is better than the old one.

The new mobiles are better than the old ones.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by albert1romeu on Mon, 25/04/2016 - 07:50

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Sorry I didn't say Hi, or Hello, or Dear Team in the comment I've just sent. (I was really focused on the topic I was asking about).

Submitted by albert1romeu on Mon, 25/04/2016 - 07:43

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I've come across a sentence as an example in an English grammar book regarding to Relative Clauses. The sentece is: Our house is the one with the new paint. I understand that here the indefenite "one" is the acting as a relative pronoun meaning "the one that has new paint". I wonder if I am right. I haven't found any explanation about it. (Grammar Books checked: Swan, Parrot and Pearson) Thanks in advance.

Hello albert,

I've never heard of 'one' being described as a relative pronoun. In this case, I'd say it's a substitute word that is used to avoid repeating the word 'house' again. So the structure of the sentence is the subject noun phrase 'Our house' + the link verb 'be' + the complement noun phrase 'the one (house) with the new paint'. At least that's how I see it!

And no worries about saying 'hello' in your first comment!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ianives on Mon, 18/04/2016 - 07:03

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Hi Sir, Are both "like" and "likes" acceptable for the following sentence? One of the girls who LIKE / LIKES singing is Nancy. Thank you for your help.

Hello lanives,

No, only 'likes' is correct because the subject 'one of the girls' refers to one girl – therefore the singular form of the verb is the one needed here.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by angelike on Mon, 11/04/2016 - 23:37

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hello, I have a question. what the difference between Do you ever go to the cinema? and do you go to the cinema? beacuse the adverb "ever" is not just for present perfect. Thanks a lot

Hello angelike,

'Ever' can be used with many verb forms, as you say. In this sentence there is very little difference. I think the question with 'ever' suggests that the person asking the question expects that the other person does not go to the cinema often, and perhaps never, while the question without 'ever' is more neutral, without any expectations.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Prince Myshkin on Fri, 12/02/2016 - 15:13

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i have a question regarding the use of English pronouns and, since i'm not a native, it might seem silly. Many times i have seen the use of a singular pronoun, and then plural pronouns to refer to the previous singular pronoun. is that correct or is it just a trick to avoid using of masculine/feminine pronouns? i just give an example which i encountered in a book (and this book contains many instances of this use of pronouns): When "someone" has to change, "they" are naturally going to be resistant. and again … what does "your friend" do? "They" pull their arm back and say…

Hello Prince Myshkin,

When we do not know the gender of the person and do not wish to guess or to use a gender-specific pronoun, we have two choices. We can say 'he or she', which is rather clumsy, or we can say 'they' (with a plural noun), which is now the normal use. This is actually quite an old feature of English. You can find examples of 'they' used in this way in Shakespeare and Chaucer, for example.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ayman Alkaddour on Sat, 30/01/2016 - 11:08

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hello learnenglish.britishcouncil.org staff, Thank you for your pretty and useful job that you are doing here you said: see those two girls? can we ask like that ? with out using question word or using auxiliary verb before the main verb ?
Of course we can. It depends on the situation or context. And, it is not appropriate for formal situations.

Submitted by Leo Le on Tue, 17/11/2015 - 17:19

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Dear teacher, As per my understanding, in question 1, the correct question sentence should be "How old are your children?" instead of "How old are my children?" Am I correct? Thank you so much in advance!

Hello Leo Le,

It would be more common to hear 'How old are your children?', wouldn't it? However, 'How old are my children?' is quite possible as a rhetorical question, or a repeated question to check that a person understands.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by John Murray on Fri, 18/09/2015 - 15:49

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With one and one's, what about the use of them in sentences as follows: One rarely greets the Queen without bowing first. It is unusual to bow to one's friend, however.

Hello John Murray,

'One's' is simply the possessive 's at the end of the pronoun.

'One' as a pronoun is used in a very formal style to mean 'a person'.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by adtyagrwl3 on Fri, 03/07/2015 - 09:09

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Hello Sir, I have a question regarding comparatives actually, that are mentioned here. In one sentence above, it is written: Helen is the TALL one and Jane is the SHORT one (instead of taller and shorter) and in a sentence in the exercise on this page, it is written: The YOUNGER one is old and the OLDER one is seven (instead of young and old) Please tell me why there is such discrepancy in these sentences. Thank you

Hello adtyagrwl3,

In the first example both 'tall' and 'taller' are possible, and 'short' and 'shorter'. If we say 'tall' then we are simply describing a characteristic of Helen; if we say 'taller' then we are comparing her to someone else.

In the second example there is a similar choice. We can describe a general characteristic ('young') or compare the person with someone else ('younger').

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Joanne Fleurs on Tue, 26/05/2015 - 23:11

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Exercise...a perfect one

Submitted by Echo W on Fri, 22/05/2015 - 12:20

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Hi, Should the sentence ‘I hope this holiday will be one to remember.’ be 'I hope this holiday will be one to be remembered.’? If both of them are right, could you please tell me the difference? Thank you very much indeed. Best, Echo

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 23/05/2015 - 10:32

In reply to by Echo W

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Hi Echo,

Grammatically, one is active and one is passive, but there is no difference in meaning or use.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kaz1212 on Sun, 29/03/2015 - 14:07

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Hi I need to know which is the correct choice;. Which socks do you wear? The black ( one / ones ) . Thank u

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 31/03/2015 - 08:07

In reply to by Kaz1212

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Hello Kaz,

'sock' is the singular form and 'socks' is a plural form. Likewise, 'one' is a singular form and 'ones' is plural. The two should match.

I hope this helps you find the correct answer.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by hungduc on Wed, 25/03/2015 - 13:40

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Please help me with this question. I have 2 sentences: 1/ Who goes to school with you? 2/ Who go to school with you? I was told that I must always use singular verb in "who" and "what" questions. Anyway, is the second sentence always incorrect?

Hello hungduc,

It is not incorrect to use a plural verb with 'who'. However, if we do not know that the answer is going to be plural then we generally use a singular verb. For example:

'Who goes to school with you?' - a general question

'Who go to school with you?' - a question I might ask when looking at a group of people and asking which of them go to school with you

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much, Peter. I really appreciate your help.

Submitted by igbal on Wed, 18/03/2015 - 09:30

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Actually reding comment of the lesson add more informaition to my knowledge . Thanks all

Submitted by deepti_bagga on Sat, 08/11/2014 - 14:53

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Hi pls help me with this sentence. He is one of the authors who is respected. (Should 'are' come in place of 'is') .What is the rule to deal with these type of sentences. Also what should come in - One of the authors who is respected is ABC. (is/are) ?? Pls guide me.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 08/11/2014 - 21:47

In reply to by deepti_bagga

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Hello deepti_bagga,

I'm afraid I don't understand your question. I can see that this is a transformation exercise but I don't understand what you are trying to do. We will be happy to try to help but you'll need to explain it a little more clearly. Also, please try to post your question on a related page, rather than just any page. This will help others to find your question and our answer, which may be of use to them.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by DiaLuna on Sat, 08/11/2014 - 00:18

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Hello, wanted to ask about third sentence. Why it is using "gets", as I understood the sentence time is present simple = -s ending only adds to he/she/it. Or it is some another rule for this expression? And wonder about 6th sentence . Can I use instead of "this holiday" - these holidays. Or that would be incorrect?

Hello DiaLuna,

In 3, 'gets' is indeed the verb in a third-person singular form, which means that the answer, i.e. the subject of the verb, must be 'one'. This third-person singular form is used not only with the subjects 'it', 'she' and 'he' - it is used with any singular subject that is not 'I' or 'you'.

In 6, you could say 'these holidays' if you were referring to more than one holiday. If you did this, then the answer would of course be 'ones' instead of 'one'.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team