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I am proof reading an academic paper on computer programming and am trying to ensure pronouns conform. This is an example sentence:

Accordingly, one considers some entry fees in his strategic bidding, even in a single-shot static auction...

Can one swap between "one" and "his"?

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Certainly not within a single sentence, or any series of sentences where one is still referencing "the same" example person. If you've already used one, the possessive must be one's. Note that as in this comment, one can be juxtaposed/substituted for you or me, not him. But grammatically, his can never mean one's. –  FumbleFingers Oct 27 '11 at 11:07
@FumbleFingers, actually according to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_%28pronoun%29#Possessive, grammatically you can do that. The problem is the semantic and gender neutrality. So, in case that 1) you have a male football team it is fine to say - "One should do his best not to provoke the official." 2) you are already using generic "he". Personally I don't like generic "he" and would not like to be perceived as if I was encouraging it, however the fact should be noted if we are looking strictly at grammar (and if wikipedia entry can be accepted; the article claims OED as reference). –  Unreason Oct 27 '11 at 11:46
In terms of style I think that in this case you can simply drop his without introducing ambiguity (which is not always the case): Accordingly, one considers some entry fees in strategic bidding, even in a single-shot static auction... –  Unreason Oct 27 '11 at 11:53
@FumbleFingers, the article states: "Either form is considered to be correct in formal English, but the form with "he" is sometimes viewed as sexist." and list OED (and another source as references). It might be, as you say, wrong - I am just bringing this to the attention. –  Unreason Oct 27 '11 at 13:11
@Unreason: your ngrams searches are a little misleading. Many hits for the his variants come from phrases of the form No one can take his…, which is a quite different situation. So they don’t shows that the his variant is used “more often”; but I agree they do show that it’s used quite frequently. –  PLL Oct 27 '11 at 17:57

4 Answers 4

Traditionally, it should be one's here. If you introduce one, it should always be one's, oneself, etc. when referring to the same impersonal entity.

Burchfield tells us in Fowler's Modern English Usage that his was sometimes used in America, but he agrees that it is now conventionally one's everywhere.

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Thank you very much - I can now stop searching the web (which has been ultimately fruitless). –  proof-reader Oct 27 '11 at 11:11
I knew I'd come across the (incorrect, to my ear) use of his as the possessive for one. You're right - it's an Americanism. They also sometimes use your instead of one's - presumably because one sounds dated and/or English and/or too starchily formal. They can bear to use one once in an utterance, but balk at using it again if they need the possessive form later in the sentence. –  FumbleFingers Oct 27 '11 at 11:19
@Fumble: Your, really? As in, one should deploy your troops on a near-by hill? One should brush your teeth? I can't make it sound remotely natural. Neither formal nor informal context seems to work. –  Cerberus Oct 27 '11 at 11:33
Check out my link, where it gives as an example of "incorrect" usage the statement One must be conscientious about your dental hygiene. –  FumbleFingers Oct 27 '11 at 11:39
@Fumble: Ah. Funny. I must say that sounds very odd to me. Do you ever see it in serious writing? –  Cerberus Oct 27 '11 at 12:16

If you use one as your pronoun, you should not substitute in either you or s/he to represent the same person.

The prose should be consistent throughout:

One must mind one's manners.

You must mind your manners.

He must mind his manners.


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Really appreciate your help. Thank you! –  proof-reader Oct 27 '11 at 11:10
Please remember to accept an answer so that the person providing it can get credit. –  MετάEd Oct 27 '11 at 16:43

It's grammatical, but could be objected to on grounds of gender inequality. If the writer must use one, then it has to be Accordingly, one considers some entry fees in one's strategic bidding . . . But there must be some other way of putting it.

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Thank you - for responding so quickly and for clearing up my confusion. –  proof-reader Oct 27 '11 at 11:10
I've just followed a link to this thread, Barrie. You say it's grammatical; others say it's not 'acceptable'. Have you a counter-reference for Fowler? –  Edwin Ashworth Nov 6 at 15:13
‘The Cambridge Guide to English Usage’ finds a problem with both ‘one’s’ (‘the repetition . . . draws attention to its awkwardness’) and with either ‘his’ or ‘her’ (‘because of their perceived sexism’). That leaves a third option, ‘their’. That may be criticised , ‘because it follows the singular “one” with the plural “their”’. The Guide continues, however, with ‘That kind of agreement is however increasingly common after other indefinite pronouns . . . and avoids gender complications.’ –  Barrie England Nov 6 at 15:51

Substituting his for one:

Accordingly, his considers some entry fees in his strategic bidding...

wouldn't be appropriate since the sentence is neither consistent, as onomatomaniak suggests, nor is it gender neutral.

Keeping them consistent by substituting one's for his:

Accordingly, one considers some entry fees in one's strategic bidding...

or he for one:

Accordingly, he considers some entry fees in his strategic bidding...

work well though.

Unfortunately, in the latter case, the example has lost its gender neutrality.

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