There is but one king, and I am one.

Here, the 'one' at the end of the sentence stands for 'one king' and 'one' is not specifying (in this particular place) a numeral. It is implying 'I am that one' or, more specifically 'I am that one king'.

Therefore, should 'one', when used in this way, not be considered an article with a well deserved place in the much documented sequence :

zero ... some ... a/an ... the ... null

And, if so, where in the sequence should it be inserted ?

Zero example : Who would wish to be king ?

Some example : There are some kings, it is so.

Indefinite example : I am a king and everyone knows it.

Definite example : They respect the king, thus they respect me.

Null example : Many wish to be king but the fact is that I am King.

Reference 1 : Stack Exchange - Why is 'any' not an article ?

Reference 2 : Acquisition of the Zero and Null Articles (Peter Master)

  • 1
    No, not an article, not a determiner, but a common noun functioning as subjective predicative complement. It is of course a pro-form - we understand it to mean "a king".
    – BillJ
    Jan 10, 2018 at 20:22
  • 3
    "A/an" and "one" are etymologically related, but cannot be used entirely interchangeably. For example, Big Mess Constructions: "such a grammatical example" vs. "such one ungrammatical example".
    – Laurel
    Jan 10, 2018 at 20:23
  • If it is a pro-form, but not a pronoun, then could it be considered as a pro-article ?
    – Nigel J
    Jan 10, 2018 at 20:26
  • No, a pro-NP. That it is a common noun is evident from the fact that it can take a determiner ("I am the one") and it has an inflectional contrast between singular and plural ("we are the ones").
    – BillJ
    Jan 10, 2018 at 20:27
  • In the expression 'one is not amused' is 'one' a pronoun, meaning 'I am not amused' or is it an article, meaning 'one person (unspecified)' is not amused ? Is an unspecified numeral not (really) an article ?
    – Nigel J
    Jan 10, 2018 at 20:33

1 Answer 1


Although one and a/an are etymologically related and often used in nearly the same way, only a/an is an article.

At a cursory glance, it would appear that their usage is still pretty similar:

He is a king I trust.
He is one king I trust.

However, there is (at least) one big difference — you can only use one article at once:

*He is the a king I trust.
He is the one king I trust.

Another example: "a one Mr. Jeremiah Swigg"

A smaller difference is that Big Mess Constructions only work with a/an:

This is such a grammatical example.
*This is such one ungrammatical example.

For both of these reasons (and probably some others), one should not be considered an article.

  • 1
    What does your answer have to do with the OP's question, which was about the second one in There is but one king, and I am one?
    – BillJ
    Jan 11, 2018 at 8:29

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