# If one were a wise person

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• 09-Jan-2013, 12:43
keannu
If one were a wise person
Someone asked me what "one" means in 1 and if 1 makes a correct interpretation. These two are examples of hypothetical conditionals in my grammar book. I wonder if 1 is right in that it tried to explain a hypothetical conditional.
Or does it have to be interpreted in a specific context where you can replace an existing person with a hypothetical person?

gz26)
1.A wise person would not do such a thing.
= If one were a wise person, he(she) would not do such a thing.
2.An American would not use that word.
= If he/she were an American, he/she wouldn't use that word.
• 12-Jan-2013, 06:02
probus
Re: If one were a wise person
2 is grammatically sound, but its second statement is not logically equivalent to its first.

An American would not use that word = No American would use that word, a more general meaning than that an individual American wouldn't.

Turning to 1, I would never mix one in one clause with he or she in the other. If one were a wise person, one would not do such a thing :lol:
• 12-Jan-2013, 13:52
keannu
Re: If one were a wise person
2's context is like this. In this context, is 2's conversion logical if that word is "I should say you don't"?

...An American student tells the story of how he was surprised when he was in a foreign country. He said to a native, "I don't speak your language very well." The native replied, "I should say you don't." An American would have commented, "Well, you have only been here two months." or "But you are making progress."...

2.An American would not use that word.
= If he/she were an American, he/she wouldn't use that word.
• 12-Jan-2013, 15:08
5jj
Re: If one were a wise person
Quote:

Originally Posted by keannu
2.An American would not use that word.
= If he/she were an American, he/she wouldn't use that word.

Probus's response to your original question applies to this one.
• 12-Jan-2013, 15:55
BobK
Re: If one were a wise person
:up: The hypothesis refers to the person, not to their Americanness.

b
• 12-Jan-2013, 17:40
BobK
Re: If one were a wise person
Quote:

Originally Posted by probus
...
Turning to 1, I would never mix one in one clause with he or she in the other. If one were a wise person, one would not do such a thing :lol:

I believe that rule applies strictly to Br Eng (and Canadian, perhaps? ;-)). I feel I'm on shaky ground when I talk about the syntax of Am Eng, but in US texts I frequently see this confusing - to me - mixture of subject pronouns.

b
• 12-Jan-2013, 17:52
Chicken Sandwich
Re: If one were a wise person
Quote:

Originally Posted by BobK
I believe that rule applies strictly to Br Eng (and Canadian, perhaps? ;-)).

Glenn Darragh agrees with you.

Quote:

The pronoun one, used to talk about people in general, including the speaker and the listener, is much less used in the US than in GB. When it is used in American English, however, he, him and his are generally used later in a sentence to refer back to it, where British English would continue to use one or the pocessive one's.

US

One cannot propser unless he works.
One should always be kind to his mother.

GB

One cannot prosper unless one works.
One should always be kind to one's mother.

(A to Zed, a to Zee: A Guide to the Differences Between British and American English - Glenn Darragh)

• 12-Jan-2013, 18:45
Barb_D
Re: If one were a wise person
Americans almost NEVER use "one."

You can't prosper unless you work. You should always be kind to your mother.
People cannot prosper unless they work hard. A person should be kind to their mother.

However, if "one" is used, it should be used throughout. It makes no sense to switch to "he."
• 13-Jan-2013, 01:57
keannu
Re: If one were a wise person
I'm terribly sorry to ask again despite many teachers' kind answers, but my question was focused not on "one" to "he/she" relationship, but about if "An American" refers to "a native" who made a rude answer or general Americans. Probus seems to have said it refers to general Americans, but my grammar book's example seems to define it as "the opposite of the native", which confuses me.

An American(opposite of the native?) would not use that word.
= If he/she(the native?)were an American, he/she wouldn't use that word.
:up: The hypothesis refers to the person, not to their Americanness.
• 13-Jan-2013, 05:39
probus
Re: If one were a wise person
Your passages deal with the variety of English usage, not with nativity or nationality.

"An American would not use that word" refers to all Americans, whether native-born or not. "If he were an American he wouldn't use that word" is a statement about what a particular American would do. Again, nothing is implied about that particular American except that he lives in America.

As a footnote. in the United States the phrase "native American" has been co-opted by politicians to mean someone descended from the original inhabitants of North America. Others who were born in the United States can therefore not describe themselves as native Americans without causing confusion.
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