OED concludes it to be "rare" now. I'm wondering if native English speakers find these quotes too dated and unacceptable for today's English.

1668 Howe - Had this been the alone folly.
1873 Goulburn - Christ is ... the alone source of sanctification
1874 Blackie - The alone keystone of all sane thinking

Cambridge Grammar of English decides 'alone' falls into the group of adjectives that are formed with the a-prefix (< prep. an/on) and is predicative only.

OED, however, says it's a contraction of 'all' and 'one', just like German 'allein'.

Is Cambridge's opinion more popular in the UK?

To me, Cambridge Grammar is obviously wrong about the etymology, unless it silently allows analogy. (it also puts 'afraid' in the same group, even though 'afraid' is a worn down form of the ppl of affray < ex-fridare).

  • 4
    Yes. I find the three quotes too dated for use in today's English.
    – GEdgar
    Apr 13, 2021 at 11:14
  • The a- prefix comes from many sources, and its etymology is irrelevant to its morphology. If it defines a class of verbs (no matter what its etymology), then it does. Etymology is something that's forgotten after a couple generations. Apr 13, 2021 at 15:45
  • Neither Lexico nor Merriam-Webster have examples of alone before the noun; this reinforces both my and GEdgar's judgment that it's not common in modern English (either in UK or US). I'd definitely recommend finding another word, such as "sole" or "single".
    – Stuart F
    Apr 13, 2021 at 16:47
  • Thanks, all! John's point is enlightening: etymology may be irrelevant. Do most native speakers perceive 'alone' to be "a- + lone" though?
    – Eugene
    Apr 14, 2021 at 7:33


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