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英語研究プロジェクトCase Study 18

Updated: Mar 2, 2022



I cut one’s finger.

One is part of a very special family called the Generic Personal Pronouns. Generic as in generic medicine, an expression used in Japan.

There are 4 people in this family: One, You, They & We.

They refer to ‘people in general’

Open any J/E dictionary and you’ll probably see it lurking, hiding, skulking around in the example sentences.

One must always wear a seatbelt.

Being with one’s friends is such fun.

One cannot help but grow older.

Are you guilty of using ONE as a pronoun? I’m sure you may have used it

at least a couple of times.

So you may be asking yourself "But Scott, it says it in the dictionary. It must be ok to use it."

Let me talk more about the reasons why you shouldn’t use it in the next section



Using ONE as a generic personal pronoun is grammatically correct. Actually It’s quite beautiful.

It’s classical

It’s traditional.

BUT NOBODY USES IT in everyday conversation.

Only the British Royal Family and the people in Downton Abbey speak like that.

I have never used it in my life

Oh no wait a sec, I have used it on a few occasions. But only when pretending to be a bit posh.

One must do one’s best to keep up one's appearances, mustn’t one?

It’s old-fashioned.

It’s overly formal.

Just don’t use it.

Can you imagine going into the supermarket and asking one of the staff he following question.

Excuse me. Where can one find the toilet paper?

I’m sure there would be more than a few raised eyebrows.



So what do we use instead of one?

Well that’s easy!

Just go ahead and use one of the other more normal generic personal pronouns

By that I mean - You, They or We. So instead of saying

One must always do one’s best.

Just say

You should always do your best.

Instead of saying

Visiting one’s friends is one of the joys in life.

Just say

Visiting your friends in one of the joys of life.



Let's take a look at 5 example sentences.

(1) People shouldn’t go into a Japanese house with their shoes on. It’s a cultural no-no.

So instead of using ‘one’ we used 'people' and 'their.'

Oh and in case you’re wondering, a no-no is an 'NG' in Japan. We don't use the expression 'NG' in English.

(2) We can use the Internet without understanding how computers work. It’s a basically a no-brainer.

So instead of ‘one’ I used 'we.'

A 'no-brainer' is something that you don’t even need to think about. It’s a very easy thing to do or decision to make.

(3) Conversations with our children are usually pretty predictable, especially when they hit adolescence.

So instead of 'one’s' I used 'our.'

Adolescence is the terrible teenage years when young people are going from teenagers to young adults.

(4) If one is meeting the queen. One must be on one’s best behavior and mind one’s Ps and Qs.

OK, I’m kind of joking with this one, but it’s an example of how formal it sounds. 'Mind your Ps and Qs' means to be careful with your language.

(5) How do people learn a foreign language? It depends on your dedication, motivation and ultimately your goals I guess.

Instead of 'one' I used 'people,' meaning people in general. 'Dedication' means how serious you are about doing something.



The main thing I want you to take home from this case study is the fact that almost nobody uses 'one' in daily conversation. Just stick with the other, more simple expressions. Please watch the VIDEO LESSON on YouTube!

Thanks for reading!







Downton Abbey



wait a sec




keep up appearances


with a raised eyebrow


a no-no


a no-brainer






mind your Ps and Qs




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