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Pronouns #3 ("One"), by Dennis Oliver

The "General" Pronoun One

Possessive adjectives and possessive pronouns in English
are often confusing--because most of them are very similar
in form and one has exactly the same form for both the
adjective and the pronoun.

In addition to the personal pronouns that are normally
used in English , there is also a "general" (or impersonal)
pronoun: one.

One is very often used as a subject, but it also has a
possessive form: one's.

One and one's are used in very formal writing.


One cannot always do what one wants.

( = 'A person cannot always do what he or
she wants.' / 'People cannot always do what
they want.')

We believe that one must always try to do one's best.

( = 'We believe that a person must always try
to do his or her best.' / 'We believe that people.
must always try to do their best.')



Special Notes:



In conversational language, you*, we*, or
people are normally used instead of one:

You can't always do what you want.
We can't always do what we want.
People can't always do what they want.

We believe that you must always try
to do your best.

We believe that we must always try
to do our best.

We believe that people must always try
to do their best.

Important: You and we are general.
They do not refer to specific people.


One also has a reflexive ("self")
form: oneself. This form does not use
an apostrophe:

wrong: One must sometimes help
one's self.

right: One must sometimes help oneself.


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