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One Writer's Ravings:       A Logophile's Blog for Language Lovers      

These Ones or Those Ones?

People like to come up with grammar stuff to complain about, and I have certainly been among those complainers. But sometimes the complaint is sensible and sometimes it's just groundless complaining. On the Mandy Connell Show on KOA Denver today, I fielded a complaint about using "ones" with the plural pronouns "these" and "those." I said that although those pronouns seem to imply a following noun, such as "ones," which would appear unnecessary and redundant, this apparent redundancy was venial.

We say "this one" and "that one," with the singular pronouns, and no one complains, so why do we then insist that because "these" and "those" are plural they can't be followed by a plural noun? Why is it okay to say "these widgets" and "those handkerchiefs," but when asked which widgets or handkerchiefs we specifically want, it's somehow inappropriate to say "these ones" or "those ones"? And why is it okay to say, in the singular, "I want one of these" or "I want one of those" but not to say, in the plural, "Please give me these ones" or "those ones"? I get it that "ones" can seem inessential in certain contexts, but if you are accustomed to referring to your "PIN number" that you use at the "ATM machine," you need to reexamine your redundancy biases. Or to put it another way, these biases may be ones that you need to reexamine.
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