In the question "Can you use “including” after an uncountable word?" on the SE.ELL site, forms such as

He listened to all of the music, including the bad ones.

are discussed. My answer there described this use of "one" as a pronoun. This is supported by listings in the Campbridge Dictionary, the online Oxford dictionaries, the online Macmillan Dictionary, the online Collins English Dictionary, the Free Dictionary, and ABA Journal article on "The pronoun one". However, user BillJ objected that

"one(s)" is actually a common noun, not a pronoun, as evident from the fact that it can take determiners such as "the" and "this", which pronouns can't.

In support of this, BillJ cited the Cambridge Grammar of The English Language, by Huddleston & Pullum, page 1462 (and a few other pages).

I was able to find a version of that page online, and it does include the statement that "one" is what the authors term a "pro-form" but not a pronoun, and a statement that pronouns cannot take determiners. On that page the authors also call pronouns a class of nouns, which is not standard grammar as I understand it.

Is this distinction between pronouns and "pro-forms" widely accepted? Is it helpful? Will it be helpful to those learning English as a second language, the primary audience on SE.ELL? Is it widely accepted that pronouns cannot take a determiner? Is "one" generally considered a pronoun in this sort of construction?

If it is accepted that pronouns cannot take determiners, then what does one call the use of "one" (or "ones") in the following examples:

  • He advised workers around him, especially the younger ones, to be patient.
  • Kayla is the one with dark brown hair.
  • Make sure the ones that we've got there do what you want them to do.

(All taken from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/one under the section "used to refer to a particular thing or person within a group or range of things or people")

Note that the discussion on ELL was not about the use of "one" in constructions where it could be replaced by "you", such as:

One should be careful to use correct grammar.

However, the text from The Cambridge Grammar of The English Language p1462 could be read to deny that any use of "one" is a pronoun. Is this correct grammar?

  • "He listened to all of the music, including the bad ones." - that just sounds wrong, mixing types. Compare to "He listened to all of the selections, including the bad ones." – Davo Jun 5 at 20:21
  • 1
    @dave The object was to find a non-countable noun for which a sub-set could be described as "ones". I described it in the answer as "awkward", and gave "He listened to all of the music, including the folk songs." as an improvement. Read the linked Q&A for full context. – David Siegel Jun 5 at 20:25
  • 1
    In short to find "He {verbed} all of the {mass noun} including the {adjective} ones." – David Siegel Jun 5 at 20:27
  • 1
    Thanks. I can't think of a usage where "ones" works for a subset of a mass noun. I would use another mass noun: ""He listened to all of the music, including the crap." - but not "... including the crappy ones." – Davo Jun 5 at 20:33
  • @Dave another user suggested using "stuff" which could take an adjective. I had siad tha the problem was that 'one" was a pronoun, and changing to a noun avoided the issue. That is when the debate on whether 'one" is a pronoun in this usage arose. Note that the pronoun issue remains when the mass noun issue is removed -- "I drove my car, the white one".. – David Siegel Jun 5 at 20:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.