English, especially in the colloquial, often uses you for generic statements about people. For example, When you are angry, you act less rationally is not necessarily a statement about the listener, but about people in general. However, it's also correct (as far as I know) to say When one is angry, one acts less rationally. Is there a difference between these two forms? Is one of them more correct than the other?

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It's generally regarded that the two are grammatically acceptable pronouns in American English. However, "one" is also considered to be more formal than you and excessive use of the word can lead one to appear as overly haughty or pretentious. One can use the pronoun "one" as an impersonal pronoun that's representative of the average person - this generalization can lead to a sense of social superiority.

One of them isn't really more correct than the other - however, "one" can sound rather pedantic when used in relaxed or informal settings. This is realized in the object case when "one" sounds quite odd - "When lemons are handed to one, one should make lemonade."

Sources: Grammar Girl and Capital Community College Foundation


Unless I'm mistaken, One/oneself is talking about a collection of people, IE: "One cannot simply walk in to mordor" means no one can. Whereas You is personal, IE; "You cannot simply walk in to mordor" means that you alone can't walk in

  • One cannot interpret "you" and "one" literally here. Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 0:55

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