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I am wondering what the difference is between "ones", "the ones", "one", the one", "those", and "that"?

Take a noun for example. Some people say a dog=one, dogs=ones, the dog=the one=that, and the dogs=the ones=those. It's a rule of thumb, but what I found was that this is not always correct. There are exceptions.

For example, in the case of "A chair made of wood is as good as one made of leather", this sentence is equal to "A chair made of wood is as good as a chair made of leather". The two sentences are different from "A chair made of wood is as good as that made of leather." or "A chair made of wood is as good as the one made of leather.", because they are not talking about specific ones, the determiner "the" and the pronouns that represent "specific ones", such as "that", are not needed here.

However, when it comes to plural nouns, there are exceptions.

For example,

Chairs made of wood are as good as ones made of leather=Chairs made of wood are as good as those made of leather.

Some people may argue that "those" refer to "specific ones", but in this case, it somehow refers to all of the chairs made of leather in general.

However, if we change it to

Chairs made of wood are as good as the ones made of leather.

Chairs made of wood are as good as the chairs made of leather

The meanings are different. It seems that "those" is sometimes equal to "ones", especially when we compare things, while "one" is never equal to "that"

What do you think about it?

All opinions and advice are welcome.

Thanks in advance!

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My main objection to OP's reasoning is that "ones" will not work alone to express generic plural (INCORRECT: *Chairs made of wood are as good as ones made of leather) unless it is premodified:

  • Chairs made of wood (or wooden chairs) are as good as leather ones. (ones made of leather is not good language)

I agree that "one" is indefinite in the singular while "the one" and "that" are definite in the singular.

  • A chair made of wood is as good as one made of leather. (indefinite, singular)

  • This chair made of wood is as good as that (one) made of leather. (definite, singular)

  • The chair made of wood is as good as the one made of leather. (definite, singular)

"the ones" and "those" can be indefinite or definite depending on the context:

  • Chairs made of wood are as good as those made of leather. (indefinite, plural)

  • These chairs made of wood are as good as those made of leather. (definite, plural)

  • Chairs made of wood are as good as the ones made of leather. (indefinite, plural)

  • The chairs made of wood are as good as the ones made of leather. (definite, plural)

  • Yes, that's exactly what I thought! We use plural nouns to mean something specific all the time: Cars made in China are worse than those (the ones) made in Korea. Here, it can be argued that Cars made in China are a specific group of things! – Chien Te Lu Jan 10 at 14:46
  • My claim is that the plural can be specific or not, that is, definite or indefinite (see my examples with those and the ones). – Gustavson Jan 10 at 14:49
  • Yes, that's what I mean. It's interesting to find someone who knows what I mean here. Usually people insist that "those" are only equal to definite things because it's the plural form of that. I thought I was the only one who had ever noticed it and raised a question. – Chien Te Lu Jan 10 at 14:52
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I find your examples

    *Chairs made of wood are as good as the chairs made of leather.  
    *Chairs made of wood are as good as the ones made of leather.

to be not fully grammatical, though the example is okay with "those" in place of "the ones/chairs". (Perhaps we should distinguish between "ones" as a plural indefinite noun in "the ones" and as a pronoun (so called) which stands for an entire indefinite NP.)

  • Which part of it do you think is not grammatical? Would you please kindly point it out so that we can discuss? – Chien Te Lu Jan 10 at 14:55
  • @GregLee What IS ungrammatical in my opinion is Chairs made of wood are as good as ones made of leather. – Gustavson Jan 10 at 14:55
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    @Gustavson, Well, your example sounds okay, to me. – Greg Lee Jan 10 at 14:59
  • @GregLee Please clarify, which example? The one containing "as good as ones made of leather"? – Gustavson Jan 10 at 15:01
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    @Gustavson It's totally okay. I am not a native speaker either, and I believe your experience is valuable enough! – Chien Te Lu Jan 10 at 15:42

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