One (pronominal use)

Substitutive one

There is a usage of the pronoun one that is relevant to legislative expression: the substitutive use of one (as opposed to the one that corresponds roughly to the French on).

In this construction, one is used to take the place of a noun phrase containing a singular count noun 1 when the noun phrase has been previously mentioned (the "antecedent"), thus avoiding repetition.


In these examples, the pronoun "one" stands for the noun phrases "an affidavit" and "a final dividend" respectively.

Theoretically, there is no limit to the length of a noun phrase that substitutive one can stand for. In the examples above the phrases were relatively short — a phrase can be as short as a single word — but they can also be relatively long, as in the following:

Distinction between one and it

Substitutive one does not refer to a particular thing - it is indefinite, and takes the place of a noun phrase that would have had an indefinite article. It, however, does refer to a particular thing - it is definite, and takes the place of a noun phrase that would have had a definite article.


It may often be that one is used when the antecedent is indefinite, and it when the antecedent is definite, as above. However, the choice between one and it is not always determined by whether the antecedent is indefinite or definite:

In these last two examples, "it", which is definite, stands for "the document", and "one", which is indefinite, stands for "a metropolitan area".

Additional properties of substitutive one

In addition to standing for whole noun phrases that have indefinite nouns, as above, substitutive one has the property (unusual for a pronoun) of also being able to stand for a part of a noun phrase, so that one appears with modifiers and determiners. In this construction the noun in question can be either definite or indefinite.


Here, "one" stands for "Party" in the noun phrase "the Party on which he depends".

Here, "one" stands for "maintenance schedule" in the noun phrase "the maintenance schedule under which it was previously maintained".

In this provision, "one" stands for "a transaction" in the noun phrases set out in paragraphs (a)-(c).


By using one and other pronouns appropriately, legislative counsel can avoid repeating potentially cumbersome nouns and phrases.

As always with pronouns, however, if there is more than one plausible antecedent then using a pronoun should be avoided, to avoid ambiguity.