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You shouldn’t expect others to do your work for you.

Does "others" function as pronoun in the above sentence and replaced the noun (e.g. people)? or Is it determiner and the noun/pronoun (e.g. people) has been omitted?

  • determiner: You shouldn’t expect others other people to do your work for you.
  • pronoun: You shouldn’t expect people to do your work for you.
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  • In your first example, "others" is a common noun that is interpreted as "other people". In "other people" it is an adjective modifying "people".
    – BillJ
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 20:03

2 Answers 2

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Dictionaries I checked list "other" as a pronoun in that usage, so that is most clearly the right answer.

However, I believe your intuition is correct that "others" began as a determiner ("other people" - note the singular, never plural here) with the noun dropped as it is obvious in context. You could try asking at linguistics for more.

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  • Most dictionaries I have checked list this kind of other as a noun not a pronoun. Scroll down here to see "other" noun definition 2 Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 15:32
  • In You shouldn’t expect others to do your work for you."other" can only be a noun because it has the plural form "others". Pronouns don't have plural forms. It's an adjective of course in "other people".
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 8:04
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    @BillJ Of course pronouns have plural forms. What are you talking about?
    – relaxing
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 20:55
  • What I meant was that "other" inflects for number, with "others" as the plural form. And it differs from pronouns in that it takes determiners, e.g. the three others. It has a count interpretation, and unlike pronouns it has an antecedent that is not a full NP. In this use, "other" is syntactically a common noun, not a pronoun. Now do you understand?
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 12:41
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    The same word can be different parts of speech depending on usage. Just because you can use others as a noun doesn't make it always a noun. Why keep making up new examples when the evidence is right there, in the dictionary, under pronoun.
    – relaxing
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 15:55
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The OED calls this usage a pronoun. Here's the whole taxonomy of the usage you cited, followed by one of the many examples there.

Entry: other, adj., pron., and n., and adv. 2
B. pron. and n.
I. As pronoun.
6. Another person; someone else; anyone else.
b. With plural sense.
(b) In form others (also genitive plural others', formerly others.) (The regular modern form.)

1962    E. Waugh Diary 5 Oct. (1976) 790    She can write, think and pray exclusively of others; dreams are all egocentric.

One reason we might posit for the analysis as a pronoun is that we are not thinking of an indefinite count noun "others", such that you could point to the specific others and count them and distinguish them from the particular "others" that someone else thinks of.1 Instead, there is only one "others" that we all share, and it means "The set of people excluding the speaker."2

It does also have a common noun sense with various meanings; one good example is this:

1988    P. Brown Body & Society (1989) ii. 39    Slaves were the second inferior other in the world of the free male.

Meanwhile, it's clear that in your sentence it isn't a determiner nor an adjective. One reason is that neither category is inflected in English, hence others is not a possible form of the adjective other.

Whether the noun and pronoun grew out of the determiner sense or vice versa, or whether some kind of ellipsis always occurs as you propose in your question, is a more academic question. The OED has many senses of both the pronoun and the adjective going back to early Old English.


1 Of course, there is also another sense "the others", as in "You're the only one home? Where are the others?" This does refer to a particular group of people who could be identified and counted.

2 Technically this set picks out different entities for every speaker, but that doesn't make it any more a common noun than it does the phrase "everyone else".

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