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Could anyone help to tell the difference between these two sentences: "That's the thing I want to do" and "That's the one thing I want to do" Thanks

  • The only difference is that in the second example you've extra-qualified it as one single thing. ..How is this a real question? Is this spam? ; ) – ipso Aug 2 '14 at 3:37
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Yes, there is a very subtle difference.

In the first sentence-

"That's the thing I want to do"

You are implying to do a(that) thing from among other possible choices that you have. For instance- if you're having a family conversation about a picnic, and various options are being considered; someone says out loud -"Let's go for a hike". And, since you like hiking, you say- "Yes, that's the thing I want to do".

Now, coming to your second sentence-

"That's the one thing I want to do"

Here, "the one thing" is comparable to do something that you have always wanted to do. It is sort of a very importable objective in your life, something like one's Bucket List

So, you can use "that's the one thing I want to do" as-

"Climbing the Mt. Everest: That's the one thing I want to do before I turn 40".

Take a look at this example of "The one thing" from this Forbes link

The One Thing Successful People Do Every Day

We’re all busy. We all have infinite to-do lists that fill up faster than we can cross off the most urgent tasks. Being busy makes you feel productive, but it could be getting in the way of your most important project: YOU.

“Busy” is the most common reason people give me for not doing anything to build their brand so they can advance their career. They make time for emails and meetings and teleconferences, but they don’t capture the true benefits of all those activities. Working in their career is getting in the way of working on their career. Sound familiar?

Well, here’s the one personal branding habit you can’t be too busy for.

Document your wins. What’s the easiest way to do that? Keep a job journal.

  • While the above illustrates one usage of 'the one thing', with 'one' used as a particulariser, equivalent to 'single', 'one' is also used as a more basic emphasiser, equivalent to 'very' ('That's the very thing I want to do!'), stressed 'the' ('That's the thing I really want to do!') etc ('That's exactly what I wanted to do!) .... The usages merge, though. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 2 '14 at 10:08

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