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I'm currently writing my Bachelor's Thesis, and was wondering whether it is appropriate to use the term "one" in a context like this:

since a couple of years, one can observe

or would it be better to write

since a couple of years, it can be observed that

Thank you

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closed as primarily opinion-based by MετάEd, tchrist, p.s.w.g, Kristina Lopez, Hellion Jul 9 '13 at 15:55

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Yes, one can be used, and is grammatical. It seems though that the sentence structure is incorrect. "One can observe that since a couple of years ..." not the other way. –  Kris Jul 5 '13 at 7:01

2 Answers 2

up vote 0 down vote accepted

I agree with the answer given by @ElendilTheTall, but would like to add another variation.

The previous answer rightly says that the word "since" needs to be followed by a date (or other moment in time, e.g. "since the discovery of ..."; "since the death of ...".

On the other hand, if you do want to retain an expression like "a couple of years", you need to replace "since" by an alternative expression, such as:

For the past couple of years, ...
For the past two years, ...

This then changes the tense that needs to be used in the following clause, which should be past continuous:

For the past couple of years, one has been able to observe that ...
For the past couple of years, it has been observed that ...

In answer to your original question, Yes, either the one or the it format can be used, but my personal view is that the latter format would be better - and more common - in a scientific or academic paper.

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"One can..." is, in my experience, both acceptable and common in scientific writing. See, for example, the 3,540,000 results for "one can" in Google Scholar. –  terdon Jul 5 '13 at 17:13

Before you consider the usage of 'one', you have to fix the sentence as a whole. 'Since' must be followed by a specific time or date, e.g.

Since February 2013

If you are using 'Since', you have to then alter the tense of the next part to match it, i.e. it should be past tense.

I believe that 'one' should not be used in scientific or academic papers, but your college should have a style guide. Assuming I am correct, the best construction for this sentence would be something like:

Since (date), it has been observed that...

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one is perfectly acceptable in scientific writing. At least it is in my field, Biology. –  terdon Jul 5 '13 at 17:11

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