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In the sentence:

"My car has the color blue, which is one of my favorite colors,"

Does 'one' act as a pronoun of 'blue' (is referring towards blue)?

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The authorities seem to disagree on what part of speech one is in one of my favorite colors.

Merriam-Webster dictionary has the following example sentence under the pronoun definition of one:

I met one of your friends.

This is essentially the same usage as in "one of my favorite colors."

On the other hand, Oxford Dictionaries Online has the following sentence under the cardinal number definition of one:

Electronics is one of his hobbies.

This, again, is essentially the same usage.

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I would say one, regardless of how you classify its part of speech (Peter Shor's answer shows that people may vary on this), is certainly not a pronoun referring towards blue in the sentence "My car has the color blue, which is one of my favorite colors."

The pronoun one is an indefinite pronoun, and as far as I know indefinite pronouns do not have antecedents (or at least, they don't have to). This is supported by the "Write Content Solutions" "Writing Guide" to Indefinite Pronouns, which says that "Indefinite pronouns do not refer back to a particular person, subject or object," although I have no idea if this is a reliable source for information about grammar.

I agree that in sentences such as "Those are nice bikes. I might just have to buy one" the pronoun one does actually seem to have an antecedent. So quite likely, the Write Content Solutions guide is incomplete. Regardless, I think one is used differently in that sentence from how it's used in the original sentence. In "Those are nice bikes. I might just have to buy one," it seems possible to interpret one as an elided or shortened form of "one of them," where "them" refers to the bikes. This is not possible in the sentence ""My car has the color blue, which is one of my favorite colors." Instead, the pronoun one seems here to refer forwards to the noun phrase "my favorite colors."

Consider: if you say "Alice is somebody you don't want to cross," "somebody" is certainly a pronoun, but we don't normally say that it refers back to "Alice." Rather, it's part of the predicate, which is linked to "Alice" by the copula "is." We can use regular nouns in sentences of the exact same structure; for example, "Alice is a person you don't want to cross" or "My car has the color blue, which is a color I like a lot." In these sentences, I wouldn't say that "Alice" is the antecedent of "a person," or that "blue" is the antecedent of "a color." So in the equivalent sentences with pronouns, I don't think the pronouns should be considered to refer back to these noun phrases either.

I think another good example you gave in the comments is " "I like my new shirt. Sadly though, it has one of the worst fabrics." Here, you see that when you use a transitive verb rather than a copula, it makes it very clear that one is not referring back to any previously-mentioned noun in sentences like these. If one referred back to "my new shirt," I'd expect the sentence to mean something like "Sadly though, [my new shirt] has [a new shirt] of the worst fabrics." That just does not make sense. "One of the fabrics" is actually a new noun phrase that doesn't refer back to anything previously mentioned.

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Definitely 'one' doesn't act as a pronoun here. The word which acts as a relative pronoun, the definition of which, I have taken from grammar.yourdictionary.com goes as follows:

A relative pronoun is used to connect a clause or phrase to a noun or pronoun. You see them used everyday with the most common relative pronouns being: who, whom, which, whoever, whomever, whichever, and that.

Here is a full list of relative pronouns:

that, when, which, whichever, whichsoever, who, whoever, whosoever, whom, whomever, whomsoever whose, whosesoever whatever, whatsoever

According to learnenglish.britishcouncil.org,

We use who and whom for people, and which for things. Or we can use that for people or things.

We use relative pronouns:

• after a noun, to make it clear which person or thing we are talking about:

We had fish and chips, which is my favourite meal.

But no where there is a mention of relative pronoun being used to refer a color.

Whereas "one" is a pronoun generally refers to a person. Google defines pronoun 'one' as follows:

pronoun: one

1.referring to a person or thing previously mentioned or easily identified.

"her mood changed from one of moroseness to one of joy"

2.a person of a specified kind.

"you're the one who ruined her life"

a person who is remarkable in some way.

"you never saw such a one for figures"

3.used to refer to the speaker, or any person, as representing people in general.

"one must admire him for his willingness"

I hope this clears things.

  • One is a pronoun here. Its antecedent is blue. In fact, the OP's use matches the first definition you give. The discussion of relative pronouns answers a question not asked. Please consider revising your answer. – deadrat Oct 9 '16 at 3:00
  • Of course you can use a relative pronoun to refer to a color. "He painted the house blue, which is my least favorite color." – Peter Shor Oct 9 '16 at 3:09
  • @Alex: that's a great example, I think! If you think about that last sentence, you see that there is no preceding noun phrase that would make sense as an antecedent for "one." It has to refer forwards to the noun phrase "the worst fabrics." – herisson Oct 9 '16 at 4:02
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No, one is not a pronoun for blue.

In your case, one is used to denote a particular color out of a number of colors, my favorite colors.

  • @Alex, in that case, 'one' is used to mean a particular bike, of a number of bikes. To answer your second question, no. 'one' cannot be substituted with the numerical '1'. – Mee Oct 9 '16 at 2:40
  • It's not clear what "acting as a pronoun for" means, but one in the OP is a pronoun with antecedent blue. One in this usage may refer to any kind of antecedent, not just persons. Please consider revising your answer. – deadrat Oct 9 '16 at 3:03

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