While reading George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones I stumbled upon this sentence:

His voice cracked like a boy's.

I think to remember from my English lessons in school that one should be added at the end to refer to the last used known noun, like so:

His voice cracked like a boy's one.

Which is deemed grammatically correct?

  • I'd use the first sentence. Adding "one" sounds awkward; but both are grammatically correct. – user16269 May 18 '12 at 13:03
  • 4
    @DavidWallace: Really? The second one sounds definitely wrong to me. – Mitch May 18 '12 at 13:07
  • His voice cracked like your voice, or like yours. – Mostafwani May 18 '12 at 13:27

According to Swan (Practical English Usage):

One(s) is not normally used after a noun with possessive 's. Instead, we can either just drop one(s) or use a structure with 'that/those of' (more formal).

The formal version of the OP's example would be: His voice cracked like that of a boy.

The OP is possibly thinking of the "rule" whereby one is often used instead of repeating the last noun. Swan's examples:

  • Which is your boy? The one in the blue coat.
  • I'd like a cake. A big one with lots of cream.
  • Not just possibly, I was definitely thinking of that rule. – k0pernikus May 18 '12 at 14:18

You don't need to use the 'one' as it is implied from the sentence. Both appear grammatically correct, but it seems more common to leave it out.

It is certainly less awkward to leave it off.


Regarding the rule that you were thinking of, I will add some further points.

You use one/ones to avoid repeating a countable noun. E.g. in the sentence

She was wearing her new dress, the red one.

one replaces dress and cannot be omitted. Adjectives cannot stand alone as e.g. in German.

You can place one/ones behind the, this, that and which. After the it is necessary, after this/that it is usual, and after which it's possible to omit.

This dog is very cute, but I'd like to adopt that one. Or which (one) would you rather take?

  • Strangely, in your first example, "one" can be omitted. In that particular sentence it would be a bit awkward, but in similar sentences it would not even be awkward. "She was opening her first bottle of wine, the red." In your second example, "I like to adopt that one" is awkward. It would be better as "I would like". – MetaEd Dec 30 '12 at 9:58
  • @MετάEd Well, you say in this sentence it sounds slightly awkward. And your example in which you think it is perfectly fine, I'm not very surprised that you choose "wine" which is usually white or red, though blue, green, ... exists. I'm interested in what do you think in general about sentences in which the color (or rather adjective) is not a crucial part of the, um, thing (proper noun? Not sure). I guess you know what I mean. Let's take the dog example. "She's going to adopt that dog over there, the black-spotted (one)." Isn't one necessary and isn't it awkward again without one? – Em1 Dec 30 '12 at 15:24

I am not an expert to talk about the underlying grammatical part of the sentence in question, but leaving out one seems more succinct and natural.

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