I also want to know how this works for the interrogative sentences which are their respective counterparts, though I do imagine it would make no difference whether we consider the interchangeability of

"[demonst/subj pronoun] is/are [possessive adjective] [singular noun]."


"[demonst/subj pronoun] is/are one of [possessive adjective] [plural noun]."

versus the interchangeability of

"Is/are [demonst/subj pronoun] [possessive adjective] [singular noun]."


"Is/are [demonst/subj pronoun] one of [possessive adjective] [plural noun]."

"This is my child" and "This is one of my children" sound equivalent to me.

If I have two ears, then are "This is my ear." and "This is one of my ears." interchangeable?

One thing I do know is that if I have only one ear then they are not interchangeable.

I suppose that asking that question is equivalent to inquiring as to whether or not "This is my {one | only | one and only} ear." is interchangeable with "This is my ear.". The reason why would of course be that if they are indeed interchangeable then "This is my ear." and "This is one of my ears." are not interchangeable.

If I may ask a second (third?) question, can my made-up-on-the-spot curly bracket notation be replaced with something more formal without losing sight of the fact that there are three possibilities?

I suppose one version I would type instead is

I suppose that asking that question is equivalent to inquiring as to whether or not every one of the following is interchangeable with "This is my ear.": "This is my one ear.", "This is my only ear.", and "This is my one and only ear.".

if it were my goal to adhere to the all of the relevant established conventions. Am I right on the money with that guess, or are there errors?

  • I don't think you will get one more answer 'cuz your question's a bit unclear and difficult to read. It would be much more helpful (and productive) to give concrete examples and then describe them afterwards. Perhaps look at some other questions to see how you might do it. At the moment your question has only had 35 views. You're unlikely to get a second answer before the views start to fade off completely. For starters, I'd make your title something like "This is my son" and "This is one of my sons" or something else easily understood and also relatable to. [First person singular (1/ ) Commented May 16 at 10:23
  • ... nominative pronoun] [first person singular, present tense form of the verb hope] [demonstrative determiner in fused subject-determiner function][third person singular, present tense form of the verb help]! ;-) Commented May 16 at 10:27
  • @Araucaria-Him The sentence on the left side of the arbitrarily chosen symbol indicating interchangeability is any sentence starting with either a demonstrative or subject pronoun, followed by the appropriate option among 'is' and 'are', followed by a possessive adjective and finally finishing off with a singular noun
    – Simon M
    Commented May 17 at 0:27
  • Yes, I get that. But what I'm trying to communicate is that it's not a useful or rapidly and easily decodable way of presenting information to the listener. It's better, especially for the title, to have an easily understood real language example which exemplifies the issue at hand [you can then put any formalisation after the examples in the question]. That's why you've only had 5 views in the whole of the last twelve hours and only had one answer! Commented May 17 at 11:31

1 Answer 1


The big difference between "This is my child" and "This is one of my children" is that the second conveys two pieces of information: This person is my child, and also, I have other children. The first sentence doesn't tell us that you have other children. It might be taken to imply that you do not.

In cases where we would normally expect you to have more than one, the two are pretty much equivalent. Like, "This is my ear", well, most people have two ears. But if you said, "This is my son", a listener might take that to mean you have only one son. If you wanted to be clear, you would say either, "This is one of my sons", I have more than one, or "This is my only son".

Even without any assumption of "only one", "This is my X" doesn't tell us whether you have others or not. Of course that may be unimportant in context. Like if you told someone, "Hey, don't be rude to Sally! She's my daughter", whether or not you have other daughters is likely not relevant at the moment.

RE your notation: As you did just invent it, I had to think about it to figure out what you were trying to say. It would have been simpler if you had just used an example and then said "statements like ..." or some such to indicate you didn't mean JUST this one particular example. I'm not aware of any generally-recognized notation for expressing such ideas. Even in simple cases, I've seen a variety of ways to say "any noun here", etc., so I don't think there's any generally accepted standard.

  • I will wait a while before marking this answer as correct. I'm not sure how long I'll wait but surely there will be at least one more answer.
    – Simon M
    Commented May 15 at 4:05
  • Is the sentence in block quotes a fine replacement for the version which employs undue made-up notation? It's certainly better but I'm not sure as to whether or not it is free of errors.
    – Simon M
    Commented May 15 at 4:17
  • @SimonM If I was asking such a question, I would have written, "Is 'this is my ear' equivalent to 'this is one of my ears'? Or other similar expressions." Your quoted phrase is a somewhat different question from the original, but yeah, that idea.
    – Jay
    Commented May 15 at 4:51
  • In your reply, is "Or other similar expressions." a complete sentence and completely fine with a period instead of a question mark?
    – Simon M
    Commented May 15 at 4:56
  • @SimonM No, it's not a complete sentence. It has no verb. It's not necessarily bad to use sentence fragments. In this case, I think it conveys what I wanted to say. But no, it's not a complete sentence, and it's not grammatically correct. I put a period instead of a question mark because it's not a question. It's a statement clarifying or elaborating on the previous question.
    – Jay
    Commented May 15 at 6:19

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