When I tried to read an article, I got a below sentence:

One problem many developers encounter while defining and analysing data requirements is the situation where a number of different attributes can be used to describe an object, but only few attributes actually apply to each one.

I don't know what does "each one" phrase mean here, and how is it used?

Here is original link of it

  • 2
    I doubt if the bloke who wrote that actually understood what he was writing.
    – Thursagen
    Commented Aug 8, 2011 at 3:37
  • "where all or most attributes have values for a most objects." That was another of his grammatical mistake. @vieten, I don't think "each one" is being used correctly here.
    – Thursagen
    Commented Aug 8, 2011 at 3:38
  • @Thursagen: I am sorry, I'm a Vietnamese... and English is not my mother language. I'm an IT developer, so when I read this, I don't know and try to ask what is it correct and if not how to correct it?
    – vietean
    Commented Aug 8, 2011 at 3:58
  • 1
    @Bogdan - I agree. I think that in a software engineering context the original sentence is correct and unambiguous. It's describing a database or model where the set of possible attributes is the union of the attributes of all entities that are being stored. So the problem when storing a new object is what to do with the attributes that simply don't apply to the new object. It's not that you don't have the values for these attributes, or that you don't want to provide those values. It's that they logically don't apply to the object e.g. having a 'fuel type' attribute when storing a bicycle
    – tinyd
    Commented Aug 8, 2011 at 10:25

7 Answers 7


This final clause is badly written. Better would be, for example,

...but only a few of those attributes actually apply to any specific object.

Logically and semantically I have to say the entire (overly verbose) sentence doesn't seem very good in the first place. Every non-trivial object has a multitude of "attributes", but in an analytical context we're only interested in the handful of attributes that are relevant to the analysis.

For example, no business is interested in analysing the attribute of whether their customers' body-weights are an odd or even number of pounds, but some businesses might well want to analyse by above/below average weight (if they can get that information!).

In OP's context, "attributes" are "measurable qualities", for which it should be possible to assign a value to each and every object within the set. If for many objects the only value you can assign is "not applicable", the attribute itself is probably not relevant to the analysis.

OP's quote seems to imply that there's a special kind of real-world context wherein the analyst unavoidably faces problems mapping his "attributes" to his "set of objects". In fact, if this happens you're either using the wrong attributes, or the wrong sets. In short, you're a bad analyst.

TL;DR: If an attribute only "applies" to a few objects in a set, discard it from the analysis.


I have a feeling the author is trying to say that there are many attributes that can be used to describe that object, but only one or two attributes that can be applied to that object.

The thing is, he has written it in a rather confused(ungrammatical?) manner, due to the fact that he might(possibly) not be a native speaker, as the rest of his article seems to show.

  • Thanks you, I think that your answer is useful to me, but I could vote for you. I don't have the permission to do that. Thanks, again.
    – vietean
    Commented Aug 8, 2011 at 4:06
  • I originally read the excerpt and thought he meant that there were only a few attributes that applied to all objects... but then he used "a more" in a weird way, and I agreed with your conclusion that he's probably not a native speaker.
    – user10893
    Commented Aug 8, 2011 at 6:28
  • 1
    My guess is that he is a native speaker. The general complexity and flow of the writing suggests that to me. I think he just badly blew his opening sentence, which is in fact central to the subject of the article.
    – mgkrebbs
    Commented Aug 8, 2011 at 8:19

You are a victim of poor writing. The author did not handle the main point of the paragraph very well. Here is a version that should be more understandable:

... a large number of different attributes might be used to describe objects of a kind, but only a few attributes actually will apply to any particular object.

The distinction that was muddled was between the set of all objects and one arbitrary object of that set. There are many attributes that apply to some object in the set of possible objects, but any single object has only a few attributes that apply.


coming from a programming background I read this to mean that you can have many objects, each of the objects can have a wide range of attributes, but only a small number of those attributes apple to all of the objects.

Object    Person   Car      Building
Location  Lat/Lon  Lat/Lon  Lat/Lon
Name      Doug     Speedy   Grant Building
Mother    Jane
Father    John
Owner              Jane     John
Rooms                       200
Seats              4

In the above example, only the Location and Name attributes apply to each of the 3 objects, the other attributes apply to a subset of the objects. When defining the objects in a programming languages you would create a base class that contains the common attributes that apply to all objects, then inherit that base class to create more specific classes to contain the specific attributes.

  • Yes, but my question is: is "each one" ok in above sentence?
    – vietean
    Commented Aug 10, 2011 at 10:10
  • 1
    @Vietean- Comping from a technical background, I would have no problem reading that sentence and understanding it. So I would think its ok but not the best option :)
    – Justin808
    Commented Aug 10, 2011 at 20:20

Nothing wrong with this, this is in fact what makes XML/YAML so popular. There can be more than one "object". Each one might have a total of X attributes. In reality each one may only have a few. (Y, say where Y < X) So some attributes are "NULL" or missing.

"object" could be "objects" (plural) but this is not required.

Try replacing the word "object" with "Elephant".

  • This answer is more confusing than the text the OP was asking about.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 2:01

The phrase "each one" is very common and it is certainly acceptable.

Let's take it away from the concepts the original quotation was trying to convey, because it seems to me that there is no accepted answer due to a focus on the entire paragraph instead of what the question focuses on, a single phrase.

I will use as my example an easy, but unrealistic instruction:

"Get the apples out of the sack, and hammer a nail into each one."

In this case the word 'one' can be replaced by 'apple':

"Get the apples out of the sack, and hammer a nail into each apple."

Now the word 'each' actually has an important function: It defines the scope of the task. If you switch the word 'some' for the word 'each', the scope changes to a single apple, with no statement of how that apple is designated ("some apple"). Since the word 'each' is used, it means that at the end of the task, every apple should have a nail in it.


Each object, he means. But i guess it should be "an object" although it then sounds jerking (not smooth) to readers.

His wife bit him up, didn't she ? His wife and he each has different opinions; she should play with a tiger.

Edit: Well I guess replacing each one with it is just fine.

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