To me, not a one sounds incorrect, but not a single one sounds okay. Is there any grammar to support why my ears weep at the sound of the former phrase, but not the latter?

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    There is not one thing wrong with either, no, not a one.
    – tchrist
    Apr 12, 2015 at 16:18
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    Both sound fine to me. Apr 12, 2015 at 16:18
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    Not a one! not a single one: books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – user66974
    Apr 12, 2015 at 16:22
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    'Not a one' is just rarer than 'not a single one' nowadays. It's thus actually used in order to create more of a jarring sensation, for emphasis in poetry say. Apr 12, 2015 at 16:36
  • @EdwinAshworth, very interesting. Mission accomplished. Although not a single one should be even more emphasis since "a" + "single" + "one" has 3x the kick instead of 2x.
    – Mike
    Apr 12, 2015 at 19:36

1 Answer 1


The statistics at COCA are very close: around 15 for each.

However, "not a one" is seen mostly (80%) in fiction. My guess this is caused by authors wishing to be "natural" by clipping/eliding :-)

"Not a single one" is seen 40-50% in speech. Perhaps because of the stress that can be put on "single."


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