I've been searching about the ability to use "one" and "someone" interchangeably but found almost nothing. So what's the difference between them and can they be used interchangeably, for example, in these sentences:

  • There are numerous things (one, someone) could notice
  • There is a hidden place (one, someone) might find
  • If (one, someone) comes up to you and asks....
  • 2
    You probably want to read up on indefinite pronouns.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 27, 2013 at 17:24
  • They're not completely interchangeable. It's much more likely that one will be used as a circumspect/euphemistic reference for the speaker, or the person being addressed by the speaker. We don't normally use someone in that way. Commented Jul 27, 2013 at 20:25
  • @FumbleFingers, can you please give me example?
    – Alex
    Commented Jul 28, 2013 at 3:23
  • 4
    One might think someone would have posted a more complete answer by now. Commented Jul 28, 2013 at 4:15
  • 1
    @ Alex: In my preceding comment, one would normally be understood to mean me (FumbleFingers), you (Alex), or us (both). One (definitely me this time! :) might think you'd be more likely to get a proper answer if you'd asked this on English Language Learners. If you "flag" your question with a comment asking for it to be migrated to ELL I'm sure a mod would do that for you. Commented Jul 28, 2013 at 13:54

1 Answer 1


They are not interchangeable in meaning, although either one forms a grammatically correct sentence in your examples.

One might think someone would have posted a more complete answer by now.

This "One" is, a 'generic you'. It refers to a generic/unspecified person. 'One' referred to FF when he wrote that, and to me when I read it, and to you when you read it (seperately to each one of us, not to all of us a a class of 'ones who tink that ...').

This "someone" is a 'generic specific' individual. When 'the "one"' in this sentence anticipates a resolution, he thinks "Won't someone do something? A person could have posted a more complete answer by now". If this answer that I'm writing is "more complete" (or if we ignore "more complete", and just anticipate "an answer"), then I have chosen to be that someone.

For a more thorough, formal approach, see the links posted in the comments (by tchrist and FumbleFingers). Also from FF, you will likely be better served at ELL (this is ELU).

  • Any reason for the downvote?
    – hunter2
    Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 8:40
  • 1
    I didn't do that. what's FF?
    – Alex
    Commented Aug 6, 2013 at 11:07
  • @Alex By "FF", I meant "FumbleFingers", the user who posted comments to yor question. Sorry, it might have been clearer if I had not abbreviated that.
    – hunter2
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 7:40

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