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What sounds better to a native/is more correct? I assume they all are correct, but still - what is the best way to say it?

  • If one wants to do something, one should do it.
  • If one wants to do something, he or she should do it.
  • If one wants to do something, they should do it.

As the question was marked as duplicate, I'd like to point out that the main thing asked was not whether there exists a gender-neutral pronoun, but rather how to end the sentence if I begin it with 'one'.

marked as duplicate by user140086, TimLymington, curiousdannii, NVZ, jimm101 Mar 16 '16 at 0:14

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    Certainly the over-use of "one" is regarded as pretentious. One alternative would be to replace it with "we": If we want to do something, we should do it. In contexts like that, "we" can have a neutral rather than 1st pers plural sense. – BillJ Mar 15 '16 at 9:50
  • I agree with @BillJ; you can also use the general "you" (see what I did there? :) ) – Simone Mar 15 '16 at 15:38
  • Welcome to the USA where such question are soooooo important. LOL. If this is a real question about the use of "one" and not that pronoun thing, then I apologize now. Really I do. – user116032 Mar 15 '16 at 16:52
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    I've voted to reopen the question on the basis of OP's edit. – John Clifford Mar 16 '16 at 10:45
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If you're using "one" at the start, then use one at the end. However, it's not the best way (in my opinion) to express this sentiment.

One is more generally switched with "you", rather than "he or she", so you would tend to say

"If one wants to do something, one should do it."

or

"If you want to do something, you should do it."

(note "want" not "wants" in the latter)

You could also use "someone", eg

"If someone wants to do something, they should do it."

and I feel that this is the best way to express this sentiment: the use of "one" in this sense, although more correct, runs the risk of being seen as archaic and pretentious nowadays, and using "he or she" instead of "they" in this case feels clumsy.

Note that "someone" and "one" are not interchangeable in all situations: if you wrote

"If someone wants to do something, someone should do it."

then this changes the meaning to

"If a person wants to do something, then a person (any person) should do it."

instead of

"If a person wants to do something, then that person (the person who wants to do it) should do it."

which was the original meaning.

Where "one" is better than "you" is in a situation where you (the speaker) want to make a general statement which is actually directed towards the listener, but still has "plausible deniability" as being a general statement. It's a way of telling someone they should do something, in this case, without technically telling them to do it, which might be desirable.

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In American English, "one" sounds very formal and stilted and old-fashioned. In most situations "you" would be used instead.

  • If you want to do something, you should do it.

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