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  1. #1
    keannu's Avatar
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    Default 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.

  2. #2
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    Default 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
    Last edited by probus; 12-Jan-2013 at 05:08.

  3. #3
    keannu's Avatar
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    Default 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.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: If one were a wise person

    Quote Originally Posted by keannu View Post
    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.
    Please do not edit your question after it has received a response. Such editing can make the response hard for others to understand.


  5. #5
    BobK's Avatar
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    Default Re: If one were a wise person

    The hypothesis refers to the person, not to their Americanness.

    b

  6. #6
    BobK's Avatar
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    Default Re: If one were a wise person

    Quote Originally Posted by probus View Post
    ...
    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
    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

  7. #7
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    Default Re: If one were a wise person

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    I believe that rule applies strictly to Br Eng (and Canadian, perhaps? ).
    Glenn Darragh agrees with you.

    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)
    Last edited by Chicken Sandwich; 12-Jan-2013 at 16:58.

  8. #8
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    Default 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."
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  9. #9
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    Default 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.
    The hypothesis refers to the person, not to their Americanness.

  10. #10
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    Default 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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